Microsoft has been very public about its plans for Internet Explorer 10, which will arrive on the upcoming Windows 8 in two flavors: a "Metro"-style application and a desktop application.
According to a recent post on the official Building Windows 8 blog, the desktop version will fully support plug-ins and extensions. But the Metro-style browser will be "plug-in-free."
That bifurcation in browsers stems from Windows 8's two user-interface modes: A touch-centric one for tablets, based on a set of colorful tiles, alongside a more traditional desktop. Microsoft claims switching between these modes will be seamless.
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."
Pundits and analysts immediately seized on the news as potentially worrisome for Adobe Flash Player, which continues to power much of the Web's rich content, even if the plug-in wasn'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 may complicate things for Adobe.
For its part, Adobe evidently felt the news was worth a response.
In a Sept. 15 posting on Adobe's corporate blog, executive Danny Winokur suggested: "We expect Windows desktop to be extremely popular for years to come (including Windows 8 desktop) and that it will support Flash just fine."
He added: "We expect Flash based apps will come to Metro via Adobe AIR, much the same way they are on Android, iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS today."
Microsoft offered a deep dive into Windows 8 during its BUILD conference this week. 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.