Whatever you think of Microsoft's attempt to carve out a new category of "native" HTML5 applications, there's no question that Microsoft's own applications are going to be influenced by what's happening on the Internet Explorer (IE) side of the house.
We already know Microsoft is working on an HTML5 version of its Bing search. Microsoft hasn't officially "unveiled" it yet, but every once in a while, users report they see it. Ironically, in fact, I saw the HTML5 UI on Bing when using Chrome 10, but not when I tried with IE 9.
HTML5-optimized Bing on Chrome 10 -- click on image to enlarge
Non-HTML5-optimized Bing on IE9 -- click on image to enlarge
I asked for an update today, April 19, on the expected HTML5-centric Bing. "We’re constantly updating and refining the Bing search experience, and before any changes are implemented they undergo testing and experimentation to ensure the best possible user experience. We’re currently testing visual enhancements to the search results page based on HTML5 in various browsers. However, we have no news to share at this time," a spokesperson said.
(I'll be curious once the HTML5 version of Bing is out whether it works better/differently on the IE9/Windows 7 combination than any other platform, given Microsoft execs insistence that sites/apps will run best on a browser that is optimized for a particular operating system. But that's another post for another time....)
Bing isn't the only Microsoft app that is likely to get a substantial makeover to take advantage of HTML5. It sounds like Hotmail will, too. Until one of my readers mentioned Hotmail and HTML5 this week, I hadn't really given much thought to what might be next for Hotmail -- maybe around the time the Windows Live Wave 5 software/services debut (2012/2013?).
Microsoft already tweaked Hotmail to some extent so it works better with IE 9. "Hotmail with Internet Explorer 9 gives you quicker access to your inbox, less time to load pages and view mail, and technology to help keep junk mail out and help protect you online," claims Microsoft on the BeautyoftheWeb site.
But there's more in store, it seems.
"The Softies are working on an HTML5 version of Hotmail with something that few people understand the consequences of: offline storage," my contact said. "They are planning on replacing the Windows Live Mail client with it."
I have no idea as to when/whether this actually will come to pass, and asking Microsoft for official comment is useless, as the Windows Live team is part of Windows client, the team that still has yet to acknowledge publicly that "Windows 8" is the codename for the next version of Windows.
But the offline storage concept is something to ponder -- especially when you remember that Google is working on taking advantage of HTML5's offline storage capability, as well. Google officials have said that they'll enable offline support for Google Docs via HTML5 (but still have provided no delivery timetable for doing so).
While on the topic of IE and standards, I noticed a new blog post from Browsium -- the band of former Microsoft folks who are selling a solution to help business users stuck on IE 6 to upgrade to a more recent version of IE.
The Browsium folks are emphasizing that they aren't trying to prolong the life of Microsoft's 10-year-old browser. The Unibrows team is championing the concept that IE6 containment equals IE 6 eradication, officials said. While Microsoft is suggesting IE 6-dependent users rewrite applications that are tied to IE 6, and/or virtualize Windows to run IE 6, Unibrows offers another option.
"If there’s one thing I learned in my 14 years at Microsoft, it’s that the logical and rational path is quite often not the path taken," Browsium President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Schare told me, via an e-mail exchange.
Back to the 2011 and IE9/IE10. Are there any Microsoft -- or non-Microsoft apps -- for which you're awaiting the HTML5-optimized versions? Which ones? Why?