Microsoft unveiled Internet Explorer 9, the latest version of its Web browser. In addition to offering more efficient Web browsing, IE 9 also pushes aspects of Microsoft's cloud strategy.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9, unveiled Sept. 15 at a
high-profile event in San Francisco, represents the company's next best chance
at pushing back against a host of rivals, including Mozilla Firefox and Google
Chrome. Despite the new browser's streamlined design and more efficient Web
browsing, however, some of its aspects seem to play into a Microsoft vision of
the cloud where traditional operating systems and localized hardware are still
front-and-center in the user experience.
Microsoft's cloud vision is one where rich clients, or
devices capable of functioning without a connection to the Web or a server, continue
to play a major part in the lives of both consumers and enterprise users
That places Microsoft at philosophical odds with companies such as Google, which
see a future dominated by devices perpetually connected to the Web. Google is
developing a browser-based operating system, Chrome OS, which will likely find
its way onto netbooks and tablet PCs.
"Many people, especially in corporate IT, they say we're
only going to use thin clients," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told an audience
during his July 12 keynote address at the company's Worldwide Partner
Conference. "I don't believe that at all. I don't believe the cloud is a place
where thin clients will take over. Again and again, we see the advantage of
rich clients ... the world of tomorrow is a world of a smart cloud talking to
The Microsoft vision features Web-centric applications and
programs needing to draw on the desktop's muscle. "Slates and phones are really
rich, with some experiences that take place in the browser and some that are
not in the browser," Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president of Microsoft's
Server and Tools Marketing Group, said in a July 12 interview with eWEEK. By
providing extra processing power to run software downloaded from the Web, he
added, "rich devices complement the cloud."
In many ways, Internet Explorer 9 seems an extension of this
For starters, the browser leverages the PC's underlying
hardware, most notably its graphics processor, for accelerated graphics and
video. "It makes HD video smoother, colors truer, graphics clearer, and
Websites more responsive," reads a note
on Microsoft's IE9 corporate Website
the Web now performs like an application installed directly on your computer."
modern PC's multiple CPU processing cores.
Second, Internet Explorer 9 is designed to operate in a
holistic way with Windows 7. Web pages can be "pinned" to the operating system
task bar, where they act like minimized applications. Pinned sites can also
offer added functionality when selected, including links and player controls.
Microsoft hopes that Internet Explorer 9's greater speed,
combined with features such as extensive support for HTML5, will allow the
browser franchise to maintain its lead. Analytics firm Net Applications
estimated Internet Explorer's July market-share at 60.74 percent, an increase
from June's 60.32 percent, followed by Firefox with 22.91 percent, Chrome with
7.16 percent, Safari with 5.09 percent, and Opera with 2.45 percent.
But Microsoft has also faced privacy concerns related to the
browser, after a widely circulated Aug. 1 article in The Wall Street Journal
suggested that the Internet Explorer team's decision to "design...software to
automatically thwart common tracking tools" was fiercely resisted by company
executives who thought those tools would impede their online-ad selling
Microsoft responded to those privacy concerns with an
Aug. 1 posting on The Windows Internet Explorer Weblog
, insisting that
"browsing the Web is fundamentally an information exchange" and that "your Web
browser offers information in order to get information." That posting also
highlighted Internet Explorer's InPrivate Filtering, which allows users to
regulate their privacy settings.
Perhaps aware of those concerns, Microsoft executives at the
Internet Explorer 9 unveiling took time to emphasize the new browser's
privacy-related features. "By default, Internet Explorer respects your privacy
and doesn't send your keystrokes to search services," Dean Hachamovitch,
general manager for IE, said during the press conference. "The address bar is
obviously respectful of privacy."
Hachamovitch also touted Internet Explorer 9's security,
including its downloading manager that warns users about potentially malicious
downloads with a pop-up window and a list of suggested actions.