Microsoft pushes users to ditch XP with IE9 plans, says analyst

Opportunity for rivals, especially Firefox, to gain users; Chrome need not apply

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"This is an opportunity for them," said McLeish, referring to Mozilla. More enterprise administrators are telling her that they've either allowed Firefox on their networks, or are considering the idea. "As they're moving off IE6, they're looking at Mozilla and Firefox."

Chrome, on the other hand, has little traction in corporations, although Google's browser continues to outpace all other browsers in usage share gains. Google's browser will get little respect from IT administrators, partly because of the battles between Microsoft and Google in the fight over online applications, said McLeish.

Microsoft has said it will not officially support Chrome or Opera Software's Opera for the online versions of its Office 2010 applications, for example, which means enterprises committed to Office 2010, and that offer workers the Web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, have little reason to allow Chrome into their environments.

Some pundits worry that IE9's exclusion of XP leaves millions of users out in the cold when it comes to HTML5, the still-under-consideration specification for the next version of the Web's primary development framework.

Microsoft has been hammering on the benefits of HTML5, and its support within IE9, with the company's IE chief Dean Hachamovitch at the forefront.

McLeish didn't see any reason for XP users to immediately panic; there's plenty of time before HTML5 supplants Flash, if it ever does. "There's a real tension between Adobe and Apple on Flash versus HTLM5," she said, talking about the public mud-slinging going on between those two firms. "But Microsoft would like to play in both worlds, Flash and HTML5."

Microsoft's Hachamovitch said as much earlier this week on the IE blog. "Of course, IE9 will continue to support Flash and other plug-ins," he said. "We fully expect to support plug-ins (of all types, including video) along with HTML5."

IE9 is currently in what Microsoft's called "Platform Preview," a pre-alpha stage that lacks a user interface wrapper around the technology. Microsoft hasn't revealed a schedule for releasing a public beta, much less a final.

Based on Microsoft's past IE development cycles, McLeish believes IE9 could be as far away as a year. "I think they're ahead of schedule, but there's a lot that's unclear," she said. "I'm thinking a year from now we'll see a final [of IE9]."

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 e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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