You might think that Microsoft's biggest operating system and browser enemies were Apple, Linux, and Firefox. In, fact, though, far bigger dangers to Microsoft are the enemies within, Windows XP and IE 6, the operating system and browser that refuses to die.
Microsoft may be all the way up to Internet Explorer 8, but the most popular browser in the world remains IE 6, launched eight years ago. According to July figures from Net Applications, IE 6 has 27.21% of browser share market, followed by IE 7 with 23.09% and Firefox 3 with 16.21%.
Microsoft is not amused by the mass of people who refuse to give up the eight-year-old browser. Amy Barzdukas, Microsoft's general manager for Internet Explorer told the BBC, "Friends do not let friends use IE6."
There are a number of reasons Microsoft isn't happy with the IE 6 holdouts. First is that they might be easily swayed to Firefox. IE 6, after all, is so ancient that it doesn't even use tabs. It's clearly inferior to any modern browser. Put it next to Firefox, and anyone would want to switch. IE 8, by way of comparison, stacks up well to the most recent versions of Firefox.
In addition, Microsoft has built features into the latest version of IE 8, such as Web slices, that are translatable into increased traffic to Microsoft or Microsoft partners, which in turn translates into cash. The more people that stay with IE 6, the less revenue for Microsoft.
Beyond that, developers have gotten so sick of having to maintain their sites for IE 6, that they may eventually simply stop supporting it. That could clearly be disastrous for Microsoft. In fact, developers are so fed up with IE 6 that a group of developers have formed a group called ie6nomore as a way to try and get people to leave the ancient browser behind.
As for Windows XP, that presents an even more serious problem. Every consumer and every enterprise that doesn't upgrade from XP represents money being taken out of Microsoft's pocket. The problem goes beyond people who don't upgrade their existing PC. There are plenty of XP users who won't buy new PCs because they don't want to give up XP. So it's not just upgrades that Microsoft is losing out on, but new sales as well.
All this is why Windows 7 is so important to Microsoft. It includes IE 8. So getting someone to upgrade to Windows 7 or buy a new PC with it on it solves both problems. We'll have to wait until October and beyond to see whether Windows 7 can solve one of Microsoft's biggest problems --- its aging operating system and browser.