In the past couple of days Microsoft has started to announce platform previews for Internet Explorer 10. There had already been rumors about IE10 following the release of some suspected Windows 8 screenshots, and it is thought that the browser will be designed with touch/tablet support – though that is hardly a surprise.
I think it could be said as a surprise that Microsoft is already releasing platform previews of IE10, considering that IE9 was barely released a few weeks ago and most of us haven’t even got round to installing it (I have managed to some how get away with the fact I have the latest versions of Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera on my computer, but no IE). The current IE10 test drive is just a platform preview and doesn’t show what the browser will be like in the future, it just shows what kind of features it will have. It seems to come with a very similar array of HTML5 capabilities to Firefox 4, which is fantastic, however it is the first browser to drop any support for Windows Vista, it only runs on Windows 7 at the moment.
Perhaps this is the first stage of Microsoft saying goodbye to Windows Vista, the devil OS. IE9 was not released for XP purely because XP doesn’t have support for some of the hardware requirements that IE9 has like DirectX 10 and Aero, however I find it a little non-nonsensical that Microsoft aren’t giving Vista support considering it is based on exactly the same architecture. I am not complaining of course, however I find it a very unusual decision by Microsoft, I get the feeling Microsoft are finally giving up on Vista at last.
I am not actually particularly worried about Microsoft releasing the IE10 preview, because they aren’t the only browser developers to be moving towards more frequent updates, and if Microsoft releases IE10 within about six months (which is what it took IE9 from platform preview to release) it will be one of the fasted IE releases ever. However, Firefox and Chrome both take this model. Chrome is now released about every month and a half, and the beta seems to updated every couple of weeks – though I can’t remember exactly how long it is. Mozilla is also considering a similar model, with Firefox 5, 6 and 7 potentially being released this year.
The advantage of frequent updates is that you are always guaranteed to get a secure product, but the only other benefit that I can see is that you are getting the best HTML5 support possible – which is useful from a competition point of view. I think that, ultimately, competition is at the heart of it because it is what has left Microsoft behind, IE simply doesn’t have the best support whereas Chrome does and it is released the most often. I think that once HTML5 is standardized, whenever that time comes, the frequent updates may slow slightly, but another situation could arise in which there is no standard specification, however there is an open – perhaps wiki based – standard that developers can contribute to, like the model W3C is using at the moment. The risk of this is having another Internet Explorer like browser where the developers just add more and more unnecessary features that are only supported in one browser.