Enterprises standardize on four-year-old IE8, says dev

No interest in Microsoft's IE9 or looming IE10 because they're running both Windows 7 and XP, claims Browsium

Even as the release of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) looms for Windows 7, enterprises are standardizing on the four-year-old IE8 instead, a developer of browser management software said today.

"Customers aren't going beyond IE8, and they say they'll stay with it for the next five years," said Gary Schare, president and chief operating officer of Browsium, a Washington state-based company that recently released Catalyst, a tool that lets IT staffs manage multiple browsers. "We do not have a single customer using Windows 7 and IE9."

Schare's claim matches new statistics from Net Applications, one of the Web's leading scorekeepers on browser usage. Last month IE8 gained share, ending January with 24% of all browsers, the most for any single browser version. That represented 43% of all copies of IE used during the month.

The newer IE9, meanwhile, posted an overall share of 21%, down more than half a percentage point from December's record high. The slip was the first since August 2012, and left IE9 with 38% of all versions of Microsoft's browser.

IE8 has been in decline since the March 2011 introduction of IE9, but its fall has slowed by half in the last 12 months compared to the year before.

According to Schare, that fits with what Browsium has seen among its customers, who are standardizing on IE8 as their preferred Microsoft browser. "They're doing that in part because they'll have XP and Windows 7 side by side," said Schare.

Windows XP, which will be retired from support in April 2014, cannot run either IE9 or this year's IE10, making 2009's IE8 the last stop in Microsoft's browser line. Windows 7 can, of course, run the newer versions, but to keep support simple, companies are sticking with IE8 because of their mixed operating system environments.

That dedication to IE8 isn't temporary, Schare said, even with XP's impending retirement. "Many are just not going to make it," said Schare, talking about companies' attempts to eliminate XP from their networks by the 2014 deadline.

Others have said the same. Gartner has predicted that between 10% and 15% of organizations' PCs will still be running Windows XP when Microsoft retires the operating system, while Forrester has pegged its estimate at between 15% and 20%.

According to Net Applications, 39% of the world's personal computers ran XP last month. If XP continues to decline at the rate of its 12-month average, the OS will account for 29% of all PCs in April 2014.

Most companies have migrated directly from Windows XP to Windows 7, skipping Vista, the belittled interim edition that was adopted by few businesses. And if the experts are correct, they'll continue to run Windows 7 for years, bypassing the new Windows 8 and waiting for a follow-up before thinking about moving beyond Windows 7.

Microsoft will soon release IE10 -- last week's debut of tools that block its automatic installation on Windows 7 hint at a March launch -- but if Schare is correct, few enterprises will let the new browser on their PCs. Instead, they'll rely on management software such as Windows Server Updates Services (WSUS) and Systems Management Server (SMS), or the blocking tools, to reject IE10.

Staying with IE8 may solve the Windows 7-Windows XP browser standardization problem, but it raises another, said Schare. Google, for example, has dropped IE8 from the support list of Google Apps. That puts any organization dependent on Google Apps in a bind.

Schare and Browsium, of course, see it as an opportunity. "We live in the white space between browser versions," said Schare.

Browsium is selling Catalyst predominantly to enterprises that want to run at least two different browsers. And most companies choose Google's Chrome as their second browser.

With Catalyst, IT staffs can define which Internet zones, domains and websites each browser renders. A company may use the Web traffic cop to force intranet sites to call IE, for example, while all external websites and Web apps, including Google Apps, are rendered by the more-compliant Chrome.

Net Applications, however, has not reported a rise in Chrome usage that would correspond with a wide adoption of Google's browser. Rather, the metric firm has tracked a 1.5 percentage point decline in Chrome's share over the last 12 months.

But firms <>i>are choosing Google as their alternate browser supplier, Schare insisted. "Absolutely, Chrome is the overwhelming choice," said Schare. "Google is really pushing it. They've taken a Microsoft-like initiative to get browser share."

More information about Catalyst can be found on Browsium's website.

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

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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