Microsoft backs long life for IE6

Microsoft has underlined support for its Internet Explorer 6 web browser, despite acknowledging its flaws.

The software giant said it would support IE6 until 2014 - four years beyond the original deadline.

Critics - some of which have started an online campaign - want the eight-year-old browser mothballed because they claim it slows the online experience.

"Friends do not let friends use IE6," said Amy Bardzukas, Microsoft's general manager for Internet Explorer.

"If you are in my social set and I have been to your house for dinner, you are not using IE6," she said. "But it is much more complicated when you move into a business setting."

"It's hard to be cavalier in this economy and say 'oh it's been around for so long they need to upgrade,'" Ms Bardzukas told journalists in San Francisco..

Web monitoring firms estimate that 15-20% of people still use IE6 to browse the web.

Enough is enough

Among those speaking out against IE6 is a group of more than 70 developers who have banded together to form a project called ie6nomore.

"Enough is enough," they implore on their website.

"We are passionate because we run a website and something like 10% of our users use IE6, but our web designers and developers have to spend a lot of time debugging for the platform.

"The other issue for us is that we have launched an API to let people build applications and while our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to do this, IE6 is a barrier," Mr Solomon told BBC News.

In a blog post in response to such campaigns, the software giant said that while this issue is a simple one for technology enthusiasts, "the choice to upgrade software on a PC belongs to the person responsible for the PC".

"Many PCs don't belong to individual enthusiasts, but to organisations. The backdrop might be a factory floor or hospital ward or school lab or government organisation, each with its own business applications," wrote Dean Hachamovitch, general manager for the browser group.

"Dropping support for IE6 is not an option because we committed to supporting the IE included with Windows for the lifespan of the product."

"Best experience"

Despite the renewed commitment, Microsoft said it would prefer people to move to IE8, which it says comes with improved functionality and security

"We want people to have the best experience they can have on Microsoft software," said Ms Bardzukas.

"If people get frustrated with that experience and they say 'Microsoft stinks and IE stinks' and they're basing that on technology that was designed nearly a decade ago, well yeah that is concerning."

Industry watchers believe, that despite Microsoft's backing, IE6's days are numbered.

"IE6 will just die away anyway," said Harry McCracken, editor and founder of tech news site Technologizer.

"I only have around 7% of people who visit my site using IE6 and it will just dwindle away no matter what anyone does," he said.


Microsoft's touting of IE8 comes as browser competition intensifies.

The most immediate threat to Microsoft's 68% market share comes in the shape of Mozilla's Firefox - used by 22% of browsers.

"The competition Microsoft has to worry about right now is Firefox. Not just from a market share perspective but from an innovation perspective because their plug-ins work really well," Ronald Gruia, a principal analyst with Gartner told BBC News.

"In the future they have to look out for Google with its Chrome browser," he said. "The main concern there for Microsoft is the rise in cloud computing and software as a service. Google is becoming very effective at delivering applications in the cloud and therefore poses a huge threat to Microsoft."

"This is the best time to be a browser user because there is so much choice," agreed Mr McCracken.

"Almost anyone on the planet who uses the web uses Google and that gives them a powerful way to market Chrome. They started with the browser and now they have the Chrome operating system as an even more direct attack on Microsoft's core business.

"My guess is Mozilla is what it is and that battle is, in some way, over. Chrome doesn't have a huge market share at the moment, but if I was Microsoft I would be worried about Google making Chrome really big." said Mr McCracken.

Such issues did not seem to trouble Ms Bardzukas.

"IE is still the most broadly used browser in the world. We are focused and we are here to play."

"Clearly Google is a very strong technology company with a number of offerings across the internet space but beyond that, I don't have a comment on them as a browser vendor in particular," stated Ms Bardzukas.

Source: BBC News

Microsoft and Nokia team up for smartphone

Microsoft and Nokia announced an alliance to bring advanced business software to smartphones in an attempt to counter the dominance of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices and the growing threat from the Apple iPhone.

The partnership between the world’s largest software company and the largest mobile phone maker means that the latest online versions of Microsoft’s dominant Office suite of applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, will be available on a range of Nokia handheld devices.

The two companies, once fierce rivals in the mobile telecommunications business, expect to offer Nokia phones running Office sometime next year, targeting the lucrative business users market.

Robert Andersson, Nokia executive vice-president, said: “This is giving some of our competitors — let’s spell it out, RIM — a run for their money. I don’t think BlackBerry has seen the kind of competition we can provide them now.”

The rise of smartphones, on which users can browse the web and edit documents and presentations on the move, have presented software makers and mobile phone manufacturers with a new market to conquer.

Worldwide mobile phone sales totalled 286.1 million units in the second quarter of 2009, a 6.1 per cent decrease from the second quarter of 2008, according to Gartner, the research company. Yet smartphone sales surpassed 40 million units, a 27 per cent increase from the same period last year, representing the fastest-growing segment of the mobile devices market.

Microsoft is looking to bolster its Office franchise, which is nearly ubiquitous on personal computers and is vital to its profits. The company is already planning to launch web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, expanding its reach to make it compatible with all leading browsers on both PCs and Macs.

Until now only phones running Microsoft’s own Windows Mobile software have been able to use Office fully.

The alliance may also counter Google’s moves into free online software, which has been aimed at Microsoft’s business customers.

John Jackson, an analyst at the wireless research company CCS Insight, said: “It’s clear Nokia and Microsoft are both facing competitive challenges, most notably from Google. It makes sense for these two companies to work together to see if they can pool their competitive strengths to try and counter some of this pressure.”

The alliance means that Microsoft’s new Office suite of applications could be available to a much wider audience. Nokia accounts for 45 per cent of smartphones worldwide, with about 200 million users, according to Gartner.

The two companies emphasised that the venture would not affect the future of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Nokia’s Symbian operating systems. Executives said that Nokia had no plans to make a Windows Mobile device.

The announcement builds on Nokia’s drive to optimise access to e-mail and other personal information with its Exchange ActiveSync feature.

Meanwhile, a US federal court ruled that Microsoft would have to pay more than $290 million (£176 million) in damages to i4i, a Canadian software company, for infringing a patent. The Toronto-based i4i, a privately held maker of software for manipulating documents, had claimed in a 2007 lawsuit that Microsoft knowingly infringed one of its patents. Microsoft said that it planned to appeal.

Lower charges may mean higher call costs

Forcing down wholesale network charges will not lead to lower phone bills, mobile phone companies including Vodafone and O2 have warned Ofcom, the industry regulator. Telecoms groups, responding to Ofcom’s proposal to potentially alter the way that mobile termination rates (the cost an operator pays to connect a call to a rival network) are regulated, believe that cutting the rates could lead to higher call costs and lower handset subsidies. The shift threatens to cost the industry hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue a year.

Source: Times Online

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