Microsoft has attracted a storm of criticism after confirming that it will not make the next version of Internet Explorer available to users of its Windows 2000 operating system.
Microsoft had previously kept quiet about whether IE7 would be available for Windows 2000, a version of Windows that will remain supported until 2010. "We have heard the requests for support of Windows 2000 but have nothing to announce at this time," Dave Massy, a programme manager on the IE team, said in a blog posting in February.
But in another blog posting at the end of last week, a Microsoft employee said that the company would not be releasing IE7 for Windows 2000, as this would involve a lot of work for an operating system that is in the later stages of its lifecycle.
"It should be no surprise that we do not plan on releasing IE7 for Windows 2000. One reason is where we are in the Windows 2000 lifecycle. Another is that some of the security work in IE7 relies on operating system functionality in XP SP2 that is non-trivial to port back to Windows 2000," Microsoft said in the blog posting.
Although Windows 2000 will remain supported until 2010, the operating system is due to move from mainstream to extended support at the end of June this year, which means that Microsoft will no longer accept requests for design changes or new features for the operating system.
A number of Microsoft blog readers were unhappy to learn that IE7 would be unavailable on Windows 2000.
One reader, known as Garry, said it was contradictory for Microsoft to offer support for Windows 2000 until 2010, but not to offer its users an up-to-date browser.
"An important point, as I see it, is that Microsoft is committed to provided extended support to Windows 2000 through 2010. I consider that [an] acknowledgement by Microsoft that businesses and consumers will be using Windows 2000 until at least that time, however, come 2010 they will still be using IE 6 SP1 which will surely be obsolete by that time," said Garry.
Microsoft was also criticised for building a Web browser that cannot run independently of the operating system.
"What kind of silliness is this — to build a insecure Web browser that is so tightly screwed into the nitty gritties of an operating system that it can neither benefit from the updates made to itself on another flavour of the same operating system, nor can it be taken out of the operating system," said one posting.
But, some readers celebrated this news, claiming that it was likely to improve the market share of alternative browsers such as the open source browser Firefox. " Cool, about 20 percent extra market share for Opera/Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox," was one comment.
IE7, which will be available in beta from this summer, will offer improved security features and basic tabbed browsing. It is also expected to offer improved standards support, including improved support for CSS 2 and PNG transparencies.