Although it has been out for just weeks, Internet Explorer 9 is already old news in Redmond. Microsoft on April 12 took to its blog and the MIX Conference to discuss Internet Explorer 10, the follow-up to its latest browser release. According to that blog post, Microsoft has been working on Internet Explorer 10 for three weeks already. Its launch schedule will likely follow the company's plan of offering worthwhile updates to its browser every few months.
At this point, Microsoft hasn't said much about what Internet Explorer 10 will offer. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a good time to think about some of the key factors that would play a role in the success or failure of Microsoft's upcoming browser.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions for some of the essential features that Internet Explorer 10 should offer when it eventually launches. Some of the items build upon the successes of Internet Explorer 9, while some try to address that browser's shortcomings. In either case, if Internet Explorer 10 has the following elements, it has a decent chance for success.
1. Iron-clad security
Over the years, Microsoft has caught flak from critics who say that Internet Explorer isn't as secure as it could be. Those complaints are based partly on a reputation for weak browser security that Microsoft earned long ago. Internet Explorer 6, for example, is considered one of the least-secure versions of the browser ever released. But Microsoft has improved Explorer's security with subsequent releases and patches. Now Internet Explorer 9 is more secure than any version of the browser that came before it. Microsoft must build upon that success and ensure that when Internet Explorer 10 comes out, it will have even better security.
2. Ample time to be used
Microsoft's idea to release meaningful updates of its browser every few months is an issue for those who like to use one option long enough to get comfortable with it. With Internet Explorer 10 apparently right around the corner, Internet Explorer 9 seems quite likely to fall into that trap. Microsoft must ensure when it releases Internet Explorer 10 it remains its go-to browser for at least six months. That way, it can capitalize on those who want a single browser to stick with. Too much turnover can be a bad thing.
3. Speed, speed, speed
Speed has always been an issue with Internet Explorer. For example, when Google Chrome first launched, it easily bested Microsoft's alternative. But Internet Explorer 9 was a vast improvement over its predecessor when it comes to page-loading times. In most cases, Internet Explorer 9 matches Mozilla's latest release, Firefox 4. Microsoft's goal with Internet Explorer 10 should be to further improve page-load times and make it the fastest browser in the market by a wide margin.
4. More platform support
One of the biggest complaints about Internet Explorer 9 is that it's only available to Windows Vista and Windows 7 users. Windows XP users are stuck with Internet Explorer 8. If Microsoft wants to make its next browser even more popular, it should consider making it available on other platforms, including Mac OS X. Even Windows XP support wouldn't be such a bad idea. Admittedly, the chances of that happening are slim. But considering it's competing against Google and Mozilla, two companies that offer support across all major operating systems, it wouldn't be such a bad idea for Microsoft to follow suit.
5. Justification for the fast refresh
As mentioned, Microsoft plans to update Internet Explorer quite often going forward. This looks like a strategy to try to stave off further market-share inroads by Firefox, Chrome and others. That's fine, as long as the software giant can justify such fast refreshes. If consumers and especially enterprise customers start finding that the new versions of Internet Explorer aren't enough of an update to justify downloading them, it could also spell trouble for Microsoft's browser market share. As nice as rapid updates can be, they can also cause trouble.
6. The same design
When Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 9, it showed off a vastly improved design that maximizes the amount of screen real estate dedicated to Web pages. It also made the menu system much easier to navigate. Its decision to have the address bar double as a search box was a welcome addition. In Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft shouldn't change a thing on the basic Web page interface. Until Mozilla and Google come up with something new, Internet Explorer 9's design is perfect for what Microsoft wants to achieve.
7. Continue to double down on HTML5
Internet Explorer 9 was an important update because of its support for HTML5, the Web standard that could eventually unseat Adobe's Flash. In Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft needs to continue to double down on HTML5 and ensure that it is throwing its full support behind the platform. If it can do that, it should be able to future-proof itself for any major shifts that might be occurring on the Web.
8. Fix odd browsing quirks
After using Internet Explorer 9 for an extended amount of time, users will find some odd browsing quirks that Microsoft will need to address in its successor. For one, some Web pages aren't properly rendered in the browser. Some users said that they were experiencing crashing issues. Admittedly, the quirks being witnessed by users aren't widespread, and they're to be expected from any browser. But Microsoft should do its best to find issues that are annoying Web users and fix them in its upcoming browser release.
9. More power efficiency
One of the nicest things about Internet Explorer 9 is that it improves power efficiency on Windows-based laptops. In fact, that point is one of the key draws of Internet Explorer 9's use on laptops, compared with other browsers. Considering power efficiency is such an important factor in the enterprise (Microsoft's key customer base), and consumers are always looking to extend their battery life for as long as possible, the software giant should think seriously about bringing even more power efficiency to Internet Explorer 10.
10. A good reason to switch from Firefox, Chrome
Internet Explorer 9 is a solid browser that's fast, well-designed and more secure than its predecessors. Microsoft did a fine job of proving that point. However, the company didn't do a good enough job of proving why its browser is better than Firefox 4, which came out around the same time, or Google's Chrome. With Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft must make its case much clearer. It needs to deliver an experience that appeals to Microsoft fans and even makes converts of Chrome or Firefox. Simply put, Microsoft needs to give a good reason for Chrome and Firefox users to switch to its new browser.