Microsoft's top IE exec bashes Mozilla over Firefox support

But user argues Microsoft's message of inclusivity doesn't extend to Windows XP

Microsoft's top executive for Internet Explorer on Monday joined the debate between Mozilla and corporate users, saying that his company's browser was for "all Windows customers."

"We believe that all Windows customers should have a great browsing experience, whether they stay at home, go to school, or work in a large organization with managed IT resources," said Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's vice president for Internet Explorer, in a post to a company blog.

One online wag immediately piped up, asking how that claim jibed with Microsoft's decision to not support Internet Explorer 9 on the still-popular Windows XP.

Citing the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and its "Tyranny of the OR" concept, Hachamovitch argued that where Mozilla and Google can "only support consumers or enterprises, but not both," Microsoft is capable of handling users of every stripe.

"Sometimes, the needs for stable information infrastructure include Web browsers that are ... not necessarily the very latest version," Hachamovitch said. "We respect that the people who run the critical infrastructure of the world must do so without our goals for a modern Web trumping their needs to run their systems under their control."

Hachamovitch wasn't the first Microsoft executive to weigh in on the brouhaha over Mozilla's decision to dramatically pick up the pace of Firefox releases this year.

Last week, Ari Bixhorn, director of IE, used the controversy to plead IE's case to an IBM manager, who had said his company supported 500,000 copies of Mozilla's browser but was unable to finish testing and deploying Firefox 4 before it was retired from support.

Like Bixhorn, Hachamovitch made the case for IE, contrasting its 10-year support cycle and its enterprise deployment and management tools, with the offerings of browser rivals like Firefox and Chrome.

"People, individually and in large organizations, who use IE on Windows are Microsoft customers," Hachamovitch said. "Moving the Web forward for both of them involves and, not the tyranny of OR."

But the first commenter to the post took exception to Hachamovitch's claim of serving everyone.

"I would like the honor to be the first to point out that Microsoft 'and' inclusivity doesn't seem to extend to XP users with IE9," said someone identified as "Parrotlover77" on Monday. "As long as XP exists, my websites can never not support IE 'quirks' which basically means HTML5 and much other new Web goodness is not a practical business decision."

Others echoed that.

"The day you ship a decent browser for the most-used operating system in the 'enterprise' world (Windows XP) you may obtain the right to criticize other browser vendors," said "VirtualBlackFox."

Microsoft has taken heat for its decision to offer IE9 only to customers running Vista or Windows 7, not the still-dominant XP. Last year, analysts called the non-support for XP a "major shortcoming" of Microsoft's strategy and predicted it would slow uptake of IE9.

Windows XP's last browser is IE8, which Microsoft launched in March 2009.

When asked to sync Hachamovitch's claim of inclusivity with its decision to dump Windows XP from the IE9 support list, a Microsoft spokeswoman forwarded a statement that the company has used repeatedly when asked about its IE9 ruling.

"Windows XP users have a fast, safe, reliable and private browser in Internet Explorer 8," the statement read. "Internet Explorer 9 requires the modern graphics and security underpinnings that have come since 2001, and is intended to be run on a modern operating system in order to build on the latest hardware and operating system innovations."

In the past, Microsoft has dismissed calls for supporting IE9 in Windows XP as a nonstarter that would have meant developing to the "lowest common denominator."

Mozilla has been especially vocal about Microsoft's verdict, claiming that if it could manage to make Firefox 4 and its successors work on XP, Microsoft should have been able to do the same for IE9.

Microsoft will maintain IE8 through the end of Windows XP's support life span, which expires in April 2014.

According to Forrester Research, IE is used by 59% of corporate computers, while Firefox's share is approximately 18%. IE7 accounts for the biggest chunk of IE usage -- well over half -- Forrester said in a recently-published report.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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