This week Microsoft announced the public availability of a beta edition of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). The news will excite web developers and prosumers as they explore the new HTML5 capabilities of the Webs most commonly used browser, but Ovum considers it to be a non-event for the vast majority of corporate IT mangers and their users, largely because IE9 will not run on Windows XP, which remains the dominant operating system in most companies. Organizations with public-facing websites will no doubt encourage consumers to upgrade to the more web-standards-compliant IE9 in order to make life easier for their web developers. However, we believe the next battleground for the browser war will be fought not on the desktop but on the smartphone, which is an environment where Microsofts mobile browser still has some catching up to do.
Corporate IT mangers have bigger fish to fry
Corporate IT and finance managers are still trying to decide if the business benefits of Windows 7 are worth the cost of the upgrade from Windows XP; hence thoughts of rolling out IE9 are, in our opinion, a long way off especially for those organizations with custom or legacy web applications that only work with IE6. There are other reasons why the release of IE9 will be an irrelevancy for the majority of large enterprises, the most obvious of which are set out below.
IE9 will not be supported on Windows XP
Most large enterprises are still running Windows XP, and they will continue to do so for the next two years if the plans of our clients are anything to go by. Therefore Microsofts decision to drop support for Windows XP with the release of IE9 has rendered it an irrelevancy in terms of internal deployments. Microsoft argues that it can deliver a much better web experience by tying IE9 to the underlying operating system and PC hardware. We are inclined to agree, but this architectural change could warrant expensive testing on corporate hardware as a result.
From a web development perspective, organizations with consumer-facing websites should take a closer look IE9, as the browsers HTML5 capabilities, improved support for web standards (as measured by the Acid3 test page), and numerous cosmetic and usability tweaks will undoubtedly find favor with the unshackled power user running Windows 7. Although not yet perfect, IE9 scores 95/100 on the Acid3 test (compared to 20/95 for IE8). Consumer-centric website owners and developers are therefore likely to encourage visitors to use IE9 in order to reduce the number of workarounds that are currently required to support earlier versions of Internet Explorer.
Most large enterprises have not yet deployed IE8
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