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Microsoft: 'Friends don't let friends use IE6'

But defends enterprise reluctance to scrap 'albatross' of a browser

August 17, 2009 03:57 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft sympathizes with people pushing what it calls the "Die IE6, Die" campaign, but argued today that it simply can't put a stake in the old browser's heart.

"Friends don't let friends use IE6," said Amy Bazdukas, Microsoft's general manager for Internet Explorer (IE). That sentiment, however, only applies to some people using Windows and the eight-year-old browser -- mainly consumers. "It's certainly part of our approach to consumers to get them to upgrade to IE8," Bazdukas said.

But while she agreed that consumers should ditch IE6, and understood the motivation behind the growing chorus of Web sites calling for an end to the browser, Bazdukas said Microsoft couldn't give the same advice to businesses. "With our business customers, it's more complex," she argued. "For them, deploying a browser is very like much like deploying an operating system across multiple desktops. So it's not a surprise that IE6 is still being used."

Not that Microsoft's entirely happy with that. "IE6 use is higher than we like," Bazdukas admitted. "Most of that is from the business installations, that's where we see most of the trailing installations of IE6."

According to the most recent data from California-based Web metrics company Net Applications, 27.2% of all Internet users are still running IE6, making it the most popular version of IE. By comparison, IE7 accounted for 23.1% of all browsers in action last month, while the newest edition, IE8, had a usage share of 12.5%.

In other words, IE6 accounts for approximately 40% of all instances of Internet Explorer worldwide, beating both IE7 (34%) and IE8 (19%) in "IE market share."

Bazdukas also attributed some of IE6's popularity to Windows' high piracy rates in countries like China and India. "There's a reluctance [among people using counterfeit Windows] to use Automatic Updates," she said, calling out China in particular. "Rather than download updates, often the solution to problems is to re-image the machine using the pirated, pre-XP SP2 counterfeit. That also helps to drive the persistence of IE6."

"I think Microsoft would like to have people upgrade from IE6," said Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner. "But the situation is, it's surprisingly difficult to get enterprises to upgrade. Many companies have old software that depends on IE6, and that software is not upgradable because they have no budget or the developer is not around anymore, or the in-house developer left."

Like Bazdukas, Valdes thinks IE6 is ancient history. "I've recommended to clients for the last two years that they get off IE6," Valdes said. "Almost anywhere else is a better place to be."

Bazdukas reiterated what several other Microsoft managers have recently said, that the company is committed to supporting IE6 until April 8, 2014, which is when all support for Windows XP, the operating system IE6 is tied to, will end.

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