Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) comeback through netbooks?

Will Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) be making a significant comeback through netbook sales, before Windows 7 comes out with IE8? I hope not, but as this economic downturn starts to affect purchasing decisions, word on the street is there's a lot of these almost disposable "netbooks" selling.

I saw the Microsoft Windows XP netbook offerings in my local stores, and I saw that they mostly ran XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), but I was AMAZED to see quite a few of them with IE6! I mean a brand new "NET book" with an internet browser older (2001) than a Nintendo Gamecube, just wow.

After a little research (wikipedia link) I found that Windows XP SP3 gives vendors the choice of IE6 or IE7, and still some of them chose IE6. I guess a lot of Internet cafes (esp. in places like Asia) , and schools run IE6 for antiquated Intranet systems with embedded old ActiveX controls, etc, etc. They need this stuff to bill the cafe customers, etc. As I thought about this it started to make more sense at that end of the market. But that doesn't make it right, it feels like some of the strange comprimizes we had with the old 'ms-dos mode' compatibility on Windows 95. A few users holding us all back, maybe they need a "IE6 legacy standalone edition" so that we can run it along side the modern IE option.

Anway I found that the browser usage figures for the last couple of months in 2008 seem to suggest that IE6 is continuing to decline slowly, but I think it will be a few months of increasing netbook sales until my theory can be totally ruled out, especially if sales in this segment grow significantly before the netbook version of Windows 7 is available, or if it's release is delayed significantly.

Reason I've been thinking about this is my new AJAX game project will not support IE6, it's so old (released 2001) that I just can't make a compelling modern web application with it, I really tried but I was almost going to have to make a special IE6 version, because it was so different and so slow at running my javascript. To vindicate my decision I looked for other developers not supporting IE6.

Look at all these campaigns to stop IE6, and these are only the ones I found with their own dedicated domain names! It would be nice if they all united, no matter if it makes a significant comeback or not I bet IE6 is around longer than some of these campaigns, I found 2 domains additional to these that had expired, ha!
(different site to .org)

I guess we will have to wait and see, hopefully Windows 7, which will have a netbook version, will kill any possibility of a significant comeback, but maybe we'll still get a little spike in usage.

Oh and by the way I love these cheap little "netbook" machines, my main development box is a 9 inch Eee PC 900, running Xandros Linux and pluged into keyboard, mouse and monitor, it's cheap, is powerful enough for text editing and running testing web servers and runs beautifully at home and on the train. I installed a pre-configured LAMP stack(XAMPP) which stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP for running my testing web and databases, try that on your 700mhz XP box :P

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