Mar 24, 2009 (02:03 PM EDT)
Harvard Professor To Lead Health IT Push

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InformationWeek Daily - Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Editor's Note

Is IE8 A Rising Star, Or Just Maintaining Altitude?

In Microsoft terms, Internet Explorer is on a fast track. It's been just over two years since IE7 was released, and IE8 is already making its debut. In contrast, it took more than five years for IE6 to meander its way up to IE7. In the meantime, IE's market share has dropped from 95% to 67%. Will IE8 change that trend?

The five-year development hiatus between IE6 and IE7 was a disaster for Microsoft. The company's near-perfect lock on the browser market in 2001 deteriorated as Mozilla Firefox steadily improved. Strange inconsistencies with IE6 caused Web developers serious headaches, but Firefox showed that Web standards could be properly implemented. While IE's browser add-ons mostly consisted of spyware toolbars and security exploits, Firefox browser add-ons were tools that users and Web developers actually wanted. And it's only gotten worse for Microsoft lately; now IE has lots of competition in the browser space including Safari, Chrome, and Opera.

Over the past decade, companies have built intranet applications that depend on the quirks of IE6, making it hard for them to escape even to IE7. Since IE8 diverges even further from those quirks, it won't get easier for those intranet applications to work properly. Any improvement that is not backward compatible with existing software often results in companies staying put with the old version rather than fixing their software. Budget cutbacks in an economic downturn make that decision easier.

IE8 is definitely a better browser than IE7, and it continues to make refinements, but what does that mean for IE market share? Companies that haven't yet left IE6 because of compatibility concerns can't move to IE8 for the same reasons that made them skip IE7. Users of other browsers, particularly Firefox, probably won't move back to IE8 because they are comfortable with their user interfaces and a wide variety of useful add-ons. IE can't compete in that area.

That leaves IE8 with a small market opportunity. Its best chance of gaining users is to take advantage of Windows 7, which puts even more pressure on Microsoft's new OS to be a success.

Have you tried Internet Explorer 8 yet? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section.

Dave Methvin
infoweek@methvin.com
www.informationweek.com

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Harvard Professor To Lead Health IT Push

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