After a month's head start of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 8 users, Windows 7 users may be seeing their own IE 10 release as early as Tuesday, if rumors from Chinese blog iFanr have any validity. But will Microsoft's staggered release plan just cause more headaches for Web developers?
iFanr appears to cite Microsoft's IE Director of Marketing Roger Capriotti as the source for the named date, though Microsoft is not confirming or denying what it terms rumors and speculation. The date for the Preview Release would sync up to earlier reports of a Windows 7 version coming out in mid-November, after disappointing Web users and developers with a missing IE 10 for Windows 7 when the Windows 8 operating system rolled out with IE 10 on Oct. 26.
It will be interesting to see how IE 10 will be worked for the Windows 7 platform. Its interface and functionality has most definitely shot for the tablet target - a target that Microsoft very much wants to hit as it seeks to shove its way into the burgeoning tablet market.
Given that Windows 7 users are likely not going to be using it on tablets, a lot of that functionality will probably be absent in IE 10 for Windows 7. What will be included is the controversial Do Not Track feature, likely activated by default. Do Not Track has done little more than poke the advertisers' hornet nest with a sharp stick.
Do Not Track?
The Digital Advertising Alliance has already announced that it will not honor Do Not Track in IE 10 because, its rationale goes, there's no way website developers can tell whether Do Not Track was actually turned on by the user or by Microsoft. Microsoft's approach to Do Not Track has ticked off a lot of people, including Apache Web Server developer Roy Fielding who actually submitted a patch to Apache that would also ignore IE 10's Do Not Track feature back in September.
Since there aren't that many Windows 8 machines out yet, there hasn't been a lot of squabbling about IE 10 yet. But given that Microsoft's Auto Update feature will eventually upgrade almost all IE users to IE 10 on Windows 7, that's about to change. Advertisers will no doubt raise a stink again and those users who would really like Do Not Track to be honored will start getting loud about the problem once the final version of IE 10 hits the Web.
End of The Line For IE on Windows XP And Vista
Users of Windows XP and Vista won't have to worry about any of this, by the way: Microsoft is not planning on IE 10 supporting those versions of Windows. IE 9 is as high as Vista can go and IE 8 is the upper limit for XP users.
Cross-browser web development has always been less than fun for Web developers, who have to choose between taking advantage of the latest browser capabilities and making their sites viewable for as many incoming browsers as possible. And then they have to choose which browsers to target. The latest versions of Safari, Chrome, Firefox and IE are the default bets - as well as key older versions that still retain big user bases.
With the deliberate freeze of IE at version 8 on Windows XP and v9 on Vista machines, Microsoft may be making cross-browser development just a little bit harder. According to StatCounter, 34.23% of machines in the world were running Windows XP and Vista in October 2012, compared to 52.93% running Windows 7. That's a lot of machines that will be stuck in increasing obsolencense.
Clearly, Microsoft's plan is to encourage users to upgrade those older machines to at least Windows 7, but Web developers will be stuck in the middle of this widening gap between old and new until the market share for the older machines drops into the neighborhood of "we-don't-care-anymore" percent.
Microsoft has clearly decided that IE 10 is where the line of demarcation will be drawn, and Web developers will just have to cope. How long the pain will last will be up to millions of users' stubborn insistence on holding on to older versions of Windows.
Image courtesy of Microsoft.