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Is banking the only win for Microsoft's browser strategy?

What exactly does Microsoft think it is doing?

Google has announced that, in common with many other firms, it will shortly withdraw support for Microsoft IE6 for many of its apps. The French government has now joined the German government in warning its citizens not to use IE, because of security vulnerabilities. And users were already switching away from IE in droves in any case. (Microsoft's browser market share has dropped from 91% to 63% in five years, and much further for technical users).

Given the damage inflicted by new browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Safari, you would think that Microsoft would be fighting back hard with IE8, its latest release.

After all, Microsoft is a company that has long triumphed in the high-volume application space by making apps that are simply better than anyone else's (see Winners, Losers and Microsoft).

So why is IE8 such a lousy browser?

IE8 is dramatically worse than other modern browsers in almost every performance test (in fact it's worse than IE7 in many of them). And it is equally lacking in modern features and reliability.

The Web is of course a threat to Microsoft, being the great UI alternative to Windows in the mass market; and MS's competitors are racing towards a world of netbooks where Windows has no place.

So is it too paranoid to think that Microsoft continues to release awful browsers simply in an attempt to slow down the adoption of advanced Web applications?

If so, the tactic isn't working. All the research shows people simply deserting IE at an ever-increasing rate.

Except... in sectors like banking, where after clinging to IE6 for a decade, the internal systems departments that are finally upgrading don't have the imagination to go for anything better than IE8.

So maybe banking is one of the few places where Microsoft's anti-Web strategy is actually working.

Lucky us.



Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 02 February, 2010, 10:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Banks are just afraid of open-source software. They think that since "no one" is responsible for this software, support for it is inexistent and in problem situations the culprit is hard to find. Also, there is fear that any open source product may be discontinued and no updates are ever made again.

Sadly, this is exactly the FUD (=fear, uncertainty and doubt) that M$ likes to throw around, and the finance sector is just too conservative to challenge it. In browsers it means that Firefox, the only big enough player to challenge IE, is not considered as an alternative because it is of this scary FOSS (=free and open source software) that can kill your bank  :D

Well, as I have heard (most of you as well?) not all ventures with M$ have a happy ending. The LSE found out the hard way that FOSS indeed is a viable alternative for shedding £ at the Redmond Giant. The buggy Windows trading platform is now being replaced by a high performance Linux outfit.

I believe that in the future even the banks have to take FOSS seriously. Any further mega bugs in IE will force even the most conservative operators to consider alternatives for it. 

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 02 February, 2010, 17:43Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks, Kalle. Yes, I agree with everything you say. Of course, most banks now use Linux extensively, but perhaps that's because firms like Red Hat are reassuringly prepared to charge them money for it.

Maybe there's a business opportunity to sell a version of Firefox to banks, with guarantees about security, continuity and support.

Also: although Firefox is by far the most popular of the independent browsers, Google Chrome is gaining ground very fast. Surely banks do not expect Google to disappear?







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