All posts tagged ‘IE10’

File Under: Browsers, HTML5, Multimedia

Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 Ditches Flash, Plugins

Windows 8 will have two versions of Internet Explorer 10: a conventional browser that lives on the legacy desktop, and a new Metro-style, touch-friendly browser that lives in the Metro world. The second of these, the Metro browser, will not support any plugins. Whether Flash, Silverlight, or some custom business app, sites that need plugins will only be accessible in the non-touch, desktop-based browser.

Should one ever come across a page that needs a plugin, the Metro browser has a button to go to that page within the desktop browser. This yanks you out of the Metro experience and places you on the traditional desktop.

The rationale is a familiar one: plugin-based content shortens battery life, and comes with security, reliability, and privacy problems. Sites that currently depend on the capabilities provided by Flash or Silverlight should switch to HTML5.

Microsoft has been vigorously promoting HTML5 for the last year and a half as the best way of providing rich interactivity on the Web. HTML5 potentially has reach far beyond that of Flash, since it can target both conventional browsers and closed ecosystems (such as iOS) alike. However, until now, Microsoft’s messaging has been tempered somewhat: use HTML5 when you can, but if you can’t—if you need support for DRM-protected media streaming, for example—then it’s reasonable to switch to an alternative, plugin-based technology.

With Windows 8, however, those reasonable decisions to use Flash or Silverlight will now be heavily penalized. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with the desktop browser, of course; the rendering engine and performance will be identical between both Metro and desktop. But the experience will be substantially inferior. The desktop browser isn’t designed for touch inputs, meaning that users will either have to switch to a mouse and keyboard, or fumble around with an interface that wasn’t built for fingers. The switch to the desktop browser also appears to discard things like back button history and current page state.

This puts the Metro browser in a peculiar position. Microsoft has positioned tablets as merely a different kind of PC. That, the company argues, affords capabilities and features not possible on iPad-style devices. But PCs have browser plugins—more generally, they have the ability to use the right technology for the job. If Metro doesn’t include that flexibility, that could be seen as diminishing the “PCness” of the platform.

HTML5 still isn’t a total replacement for plugin technologies, either. The gap is certainly narrowing: Web Sockets, Web Workers, built-in support for webcams and microphones, and more, are all coming to HTML5 browsers (or are available already), and these features will obviate the need for plugins for many applications. But certain corners are likely to remain; DRM-protected video, for example, might forever be impossible in HTML5, and while many people find DRM distasteful, many broadcasters feel they have little choice but to use it.

The solution to this conundrum on the iOS platform has been the app: companies like Netflix and the BBC have applications to watch video on these devices. The result is that in the desire to push an open, plugin-free Web, companies are being forced to migrate away from the Web entirely. Silverlight developers, at least, will have an easy migration path available to them: the new Metro development environment, used for producing native Metro applications, borrows heavily from Silverlight, and making the switch from an in-browser plugin-based application to a standalone Metro application should be relatively easier. Flash developers will have to wait to see what tools Adobe delivers.

HTML5 design and developer tools also remain weak, though this situation is improving with the creation of products like Adobe Edge.

With Microsoft’s promotion of HTML5, and the precedent set by iOS, the decision to get rid of plugins in the Metro browser is perhaps unsurprising. But it’s not clear that this will truly help Windows 8; the awkward user experience penalizes users who, for no fault of their own, need to use plugins, and detracts from Windows 8′s PC claims. A switch to a more HTML5-powered Web will happen regardless—does Microsoft really need to force the issue like this?

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.

File Under: Browsers

Microsoft’s Raw Deal for Vista Users: IE 10 for Windows 7 Only

One of the minor “features” Microsoft included in the Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview released earlier this week was reduced operating system support; it will only install on Windows 7, leaving Windows XP and Windows Vista users out in the cold. Microsoft confirmed to Computerworld that this was no accident, with a spokesperson saying “Windows Vista customers have a great browsing experience with IE9, but in building IE10 we are focused on continuing to drive the kind of innovation that only happens when you take advantage of the ongoing improvements in modern operating systems and modern hardware.”

That’s a claim that’s hard to make any sense of.

When the company announced that Internet Explorer 9 wouldn’t support Windows XP, the decision made sense. Though it meant cutting off a large number of Windows users, Internet Explorer 9 was written to depend heavily on Direct2D and DirectWrite for all its hardware accelerated high-performance graphics, and on Windows’ Mandatory Integrity Control (among other things) for security. Direct2D and DirectWrite were both introduced on Windows 7 and back ported to Windows Vista; MIC was introduced with Windows Vista. In neither case were the features available on Windows XP, nor even readily ported to that operating system.

But no such disparity exists between Windows Vista and Windows 7. Windows 7 is undoubtedly better than Windows Vista. It’s three years newer, improvement was inevitable. What it isn’t, however, is substantially different. Windows Vista did the hard work—radically new display subsystem, new audio subsystem, new media framework, and so on. Windows 7 just consolidated those changes. As we noted when we reviewed Windows 7, the decision to upgrade from Windows Vista was not entirely clear-cut.

So unless Microsoft is planning to back port some big chunk of Windows 8 functionality to Windows 7—and then make Internet Explorer 10 depend heavily on that functionality, just as Internet Explorer 9 depends on Direct2D and DirectWrite—the talk of “ongoing improvements” is hard to fathom. Windows 7 is an incremental improvement on Windows Vista now, and it will be that same incremental improvement this time next year. To imply that Windows 7 is somehow “modern” in a way that Windows Vista is not is disingenuous in the extreme.

There’s also a question of support. Windows Vista is still in mainstream support. This means that it’s still, in theory at least, eligible for nonsecurity bug-fixes and improvements. It’ll be in mainstream support until April 10th 2012. Assuming Internet Explorer 10 comes about a year from now—just as Internet Explorer 9 took about a year from its first Platform Preview at MIX10 to the final release—then, depending on which day of the week the software ships, Windows Vista will either still be in mainstream support when Internet Explorer 10 ships, or will have dropped out of mainstream support by a matter of days, after having been generally available for just over five years.

In contrast, when Windows XP received Internet Explorer 8 on March 29, 2009, it was out of mainstream support by 11 months (Windows XP Service Pack 3′s mainstream support ended on April 21, 2008), and had been on the market for more than seven years.

Of course, Windows XP had one thing that Windows Vista does: substantial market share. Windows Vista’s usage is declining, and by next April it will probably be down to five or six percent of the market. A small share, to be sure, but still many tens of millions of users. Users that will be ceded to the competition. Microsoft may feel that such a small market share isn’t worth supporting, but if so, surely the company should say so instead of fobbing people off with comments about “modern operating systems”.

Whatever the real reason, this is a pretty raw deal for Windows Vista users. Not as bad as the Ultimate Extras farce, but bad all the same. It also means that when Microsoft released Internet Explorer 10, it is likely that it will support just one operating system, with a second, Windows 8, due later in 2012. The company is already being criticized for supporting a mere two operating systems with Internet Explorer 9. Cutting back to one, leaving Windows Vista users out in the cold, is hard to defend.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news. For more from Ars Technica, follow the links below.

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File Under: Browsers

Microsoft Shows Off Internet Explorer 10 in Internet Explorer 10

Just a scant four weeks after the launch of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft is back with the first platform preview of Internet Explorer 10. Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Internet Explorer, unveiled the new platform preview of IE10 at the ongoing Mix developer conference in Las Vegas.

If you’d like to try out this very early release of IE10, head over to the IE Test Drive site and download a copy. The company plans to update the IE10 preview every eight to 12 weeks. Although Microsoft hasn’t set a final date for IE10, with Windows 8 reportedly in the works, it seems likely that both will arrive together sometime next year.

According to Microsoft, IE10 builds on the hardware-accelerated graphics tools which Microsoft touted with the release of IE9. IE10 will also continue the improved HTML5 and CSS3 support in IE9. Web developers will be pleased to note that two popular requests for CSS3 in IE9 — Gradients and Flexible Box Layout — are both already part of IE10.

In fact Microsoft already has some demos up to show off IE10‘s newfound box layout and gradient features. Impressively, the IE10 platform preview does a better job of handling many of the layout demos than the nightly build of Chromium which serves as my main web browser.

IE10 is still very much a preview release and not recommended for anything beyond testing, but based on this early look those fears that IE9 would be the end of Internet Explorer were misplaced. Not only is IE10 off to a good start, but — provided its development cycle is similar to that of IE9 — we should see the final release early next year.

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