The release of Internet Explorer 9 beta garnered a lot of attention and positive reviews. Cribbing from Chrome’s UI and significantly boosting speed over previous iterations of the browser, IE9 looks like a real winner. Too bad Microsoft left Windows XP users — more than half of all Windows users — out in the cold.
In a statement to The Register, Ryan Gavin, senior director of IE business and marketing, said Windows XP users couldn’t download IE9. Not now; not ever. Instead, Microsoft plans to “continue to focus on how we do a great job with Windows 7,” Gavin said.
According to recent stats, Windows XP represents the vast majority of the OS market with more than 53 percent. Windows 7 has only 22 percent.
The roadblock here is that XP doesn’t have the capabilities required to support the hardware acceleration and HTML5 features of IE9. The hardware acceleration in IE9, according to The Register, comes courtesy of DirectX 10 — an update to the DirectX program that does not run on Windows XP unless it’s been “modified.” But quick Web search shows a handful of sites where DirectX 10 can be downloaded onto machines running XP, which leads me to believe that eventually someone will find a way to dump IE9 on XP, whether Microsoft likes it or not.
That Microsoft is keeping IE9 exclusive to those running Vista SP2 or higher seems like a foolish move that is likely to inspire millions to find an alternative browser, such as Firefox or Chrome. This could further damage IE’s current supremacy of the browser market. All versions of Internet Explorer combined currently dominate with 60.4 percent of the Web browser market. Firefox has 22.93 percent, and Chrome has 7.52 percent.
Barring XP users also seems like a sneaky ploy to get more people to upgrade to Windows 7. I can’t imagine many people would be so discouraged by the news that they cannot download a beta browser that they’d drop hundreds on an OS upgrade.