Yesterday Microsoft unveiled to the masses the beta of its new browser IE9. But this new browser won't run on the majority of Windows systems currently out there. Is this a problem? Will it encourage XP users to upgrade?
Here's the deal. About two-thirds of PCs out there run Windows XP. Windows XP doesn't support the Direct2D API that IE9 uses for hardware acceleration. No Direct2D support, no IE9.
But does it matter?
Well, the first thing to bear in mind is that IE9 is currently in beta, and not the final release. Microsoft hasn't given us a clue as to when the final release of IE9 will be. Best guess is that it will hit the download servers in April 2011, in time for Microsoft's MIX web conference. April 2011 is a long way away (in the tech world), so it's quite likely that Windows 7 will gain more ground during that time, while XP's market share will continue to slide. I wouldn't want to bet against that trend. I expect that the holiday spending orgy will result in a significant upgrade uptick.
Another point worth bearing in mind is that if you're happy with an old OS, then chances are that you're happy with an old browser. Or a non-Microsoft browser. There are alternatives that continue to support XP ... for now.
Personally, I think that not supporting XP is a good move. Microsoft will continue to stream patches to XP for both the OS and IE until the support period expires, and if XP users want a more modern browser, then they've got the option to go for something else (Firefox, Chrome, Opera ...). But sometimes you have to draw a line under the past to move forward, and in my opinion Microsoft's done the right thing here.
XP is dead people, time to get used to that.