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.