After four platform previews aimed at demonstrating the power of the underlying Internet Explorer 9 engine to developers, Microsoft is ready to unveil a public beta of the IE9 Web browser on September 15. Many organizations are still struggling with the decision to move from IE6 to IE8, so what should businesses expect from the new Microsoft browser?
While developers have had months to play under the hood, Microsoft has not yet revealed what the actual IE9 browser interface will look like. Based on some of the IE8 feedback, and the trend competing browsers like Chrome and Firefox have been following, I would expect a cleaner, simpler interface.
Users generally want the browser to just be a Web browser. The performance of the browser--both the speed at which it renders each visited page, and compatibility with industry standards so that Web pages just work--are significantly more important factors than bells and whistles, and whiz-bang features.
Microsoft can only hope that IE9 is as successful as IE8 has been. Internet Explorer 8 has been a tremendous success--leading all browsers in market share and growth rate, and driving a rebound in overall market share for Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer 6 refuses to die and is still the default browser in many organizations. Now, IE9 is on the horizon.
If the IE8 timeline is any indication, IT admins will not need to put any serious thought into transitioning to IE9 any time soon. There was a year between the launch of the public beta for IE8 and its official release. Assuming IE9 follows a similar timeline; IE9 will not be the new official Microsoft Web browser until next fall--a few months ahead of the rumored release of Windows 8.
And, if the public beta of IE9 is any indication, organizations that still rely on the legacy Windows XP operating system will not need to worry about switching to the new browser at all. The IE9 browser only works with Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Once IE9 launches, it will be one more nail in the coffin of IE6, and the exclusion of Windows XP could help expedite pulling the plug on that venerable OS as well. There is a degree of comfort that comes with sticking with what works--however when IT admins look deeper at the increased support effort and costs associated with the instability and compromised security of Windows XP (especially when combined with IE6), and the improvements in efficiency and productivity in Windows 7 it becomes increasingly evident that Windows XP isn't "working" as well as it seems at face value.