Microsoft will make Internet Explorer 10 available as a "Metro"-style application and a desktop application for its upcoming Windows 8.
The desktop version will fully support plug-ins and extensions, according to a new post on the official Building Windows 8 blog. However, the Metro-style browser will be "plug-in-free."
The reasoning behind this decision seems fairly straightforward. "Running Metro style IE plug-in-free improves battery life as well as security, reliability and privacy for consumers," Dean Hachamovitch, head of Microsoft's Internet Explorer team, wrote in that Sept. 14 posting. "Plug-ins were important early on in the Web's history. But the Web has come a long way since then with HTML5."
That means "providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI." People using the Metro-style browser will have the option of tapping "Use Desktop View" for Websites that require legacy ActiveX controls.
This is a potentially worrisome development for Adobe Flash Player, even if the plug-in isn't explicitly mentioned in the blog posting. Adobe is already in something of a war with Apple, which made a very public policy of banning Flash from its iOS devices. Adding Internet Explorer 10 to that no-Flash group could complicate things for Adobe, to say the least.
Just as Windows 8 will offer a Metro-style and desktop browser, it will also subdivide itself into two separate-but-linked operating environments: a touch-centric, tablet-ready interface centered on colorful tiles (where the Metro browser will be front-and-center), and a more traditional desktop. Microsoft executives claim that flipping between the two will be a seamless experience.
As a whole, the tablet interface embraces the "Metro" aesthetic pioneered by Microsoft's Zune and Windows Phone software, drawing away from the "Aero" design used in Windows Vista and Windows 7. And when it flips to desktop mode, Windows 8 does offer a "look" that's chunkier and more blockish than Aero-although, given this early stage, it remains to be seen whether this is anything close to the final look.
Other Windows 8 capabilities include ultra-fast boot, picture password (which involves tapping parts of an image to access the system), and an application store, which will list win32 applications in addition to "Metro" applications. IT administrators and developers will have the ability to run multiple virtualized operating systems on the same physical machine.