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Google's dump-IE8 move backs Windows XP users into corner

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 19, 2012
Google has put Windows XP users in a tight spot by dropping support for Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), analysts said today.

By retiring IE8, Google will affect XP users who cannot switch browsers, especially those in businesses and other organizations locked into a Microsoft-made browser by IT policy.

And that's the crux, said Miller. "This is just the foretelling of a larger elephant in the room," said Miller. "The reality of it is that XP is not disappearing."

Microsoft has set XP's end of support for April 2014; after that date, it will not provide security updates for the OS.

Users now running XP would not be affected by Google's retirement of IE8 if they upgraded their PCs, or upgraded the operating system to, say, Windows 7, as many already have. But the migration from XP is slow going, something that must stick in Microsoft's craw.

"Corporations and consumers aren't getting the message about XP's end of life," said Miller. "They're not getting the message that [after April 2014] there will be no means to service the OS."

But to Hilwa, Google's IE8 retirement won't be that big of a deal for XP users. "Most enterprises tend to use Microsoft's browser [but] most are not significant users of Google's apps, and this will certainly help color their view of Google as an enterprise player," Hilwa said.

Hilwa also saw little chance that Google's Chrome would pick up users from the end of IE8 support. "It does not mean that companies using XP will rush to support Chrome," he argued. "Firefox is a more likely beneficiary because of Google's weak reputation on the privacy of the data that flows through its browser, which is an issue for enterprises."

Google supports the two most-recent versions of Firefox, currently Firefox 14 and Firefox 15. Both run on Windows XP.

Microsoft declined to comment on Google's decision to retire IE8.

Google also declined to comment, other than to repeat what it's said before, that the retirement of IE8 is in line with previously-announced policy and that the goal is to let its developers take advantage of the latest technologies in the newest browsers.

IE8 users can switch to another browser, including the most recent versions of Firefox, Chrome or Opera. Another option is to run Chrome Frame, a plug-in for IE that lets users of the latter utilize Chrome's WebKit rendering engine as a browser-within-a-browser.

Google launched Chrome Frame in 2009, when both Microsoft and Mozilla blasted the plug-in over security and browser fragmentation concerns.

Chrome Frame works with IE6, IE7, IE8 on Windows XP and adds IE9 to the list for Vista and Windows 7. It's available from Google's site as a free download.

The end-of-support plan for Google Apps will not disrupt access to its search site using older browsers, or suddenly cause Google's services to stop working in IE8. Instead, new features may not work in the older browser, and content may not display properly.



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