Microsoft plays up Internet Explorer 9 ties to Windows at browser launch

In a move that surprised me, Microsoft launched IE9 at the SXSW show by playing up th ties between Windows and IE9.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft could have taken a lot of different tacks to launch Internet Explorer (IE) 9.

I was surprised about the path the Softies chose. They didn't lead with the increased HTML5 standards compliance, the improvements around security and privacy or even the speed of IE 9 -- all of which IE chief Dean Hachamovitch mentioned during his IE9 launch keynote speech at SXSW on March 14.

Instead, Hachamovitch played up, right out of the gate of his 45-minute talk, the ties between IE 9 and Windows.

Yes, I know the IE team is part of the Windows business unit. And I also realize -- as I'm sure many do -- that IE is a Windows-only browser. In fact, IE 9 is a Vista and Windows 7 browser, not optimized to work on Windows XP. A version of it does work on Windows Mobile/Windows Phone (and an IE9 variant will be available on Windows Phone 7.x with the "Mango" release later this year, Microsoft officials have said). But to some, IE's Windows-only limitation is not a strength -- it's a weakness, when compared to Firefox, Chrome, Opera and other multiplatform browsers.

Hachamovitch, Corporate Vice President of Internet Explorer, highlighted the Windows ties of IE9 from the very start of his 45-minute launch presentation at SXSW.

"We bring all the benefits of a modern PC running Windows to the Web" with IE9, Hachamovitch said.

Web browsing is the top activity that people do on their PCs, Hachamovitch said, and "we want people to keep choosing Windows to do (that)."

The hardware-accelerated graphics of which IE9 takes advantage is enabled by the underlying operating system, Hachamovitch said. And "the browser is only as good as the operating system it runs on," he emphasized, just like graphics programs and games.

Ari Bixhorn, the Director of Web Services Strategy -- who handled the IE9 demo work at the launch -- emphasized that page speeds matter more than page load times. He called page loading time an "old-school" performance metric. He said that IE9 makes Web sites look and feel just like a (native) application, more than a traditional Web app.

I guess if you use IE9 Pinned Sites that would be true. But I've found myself twiddling my thumbs while waiting for Twitter to load on my IE9 test builds, as Pinned Sites aren't something I've found all that useful, given the way I work on the Web. (I lose track of all my many, open tabs when/if I pin sites to my Windows 7 task bar.)

Speaking of speed, I also wondered about Microsoft's repeated benchmarking of Firefox on Mac vs. IE9 on Windows. What about Chrome on Windows vs. IE9 on Windows? Seems I wasn't alone in wishing we saw a little more of that:

I've blogged before about why and how Microsoft is counting on IE9 as a key element of its Windows 8 tablet/slate strategy. Bottom line: The Redmondians are betting on HTML5 sites as being the preferred way to make more apps/content available on Windows touch devices.

Microsoft has been working with a few hundred of the developers of some of the most trafficked Web sites to get them to optimize their sites for IE9.

"Over 250 of the Web's top sites are making the Web better for their users with IE9 and Windows," Hachamovitch told the launch audience. (Did I mention Windows?)

My worry: What about the rest of the Web sites that aren't among the chosen ones? I asked Microsoft officials this week if the company had plans to reach out to other sites without zombies, angry birds, or foursquare check-ins to help them update their sites to take advantage of IE9 and didn't hear back. Instead, I was told that "from an ROI (return-on-investment) perspective, some sites are already seeing the benefit of investing in IE9."

I have to say, I think the Softies have some pretty stiff competition from Chrome, which I've been using increasingly as my browser of choice because of how quickly it loads pages. Yes, I know. I'm very old-school that way....

Microsoft is making the final IE 9 bits available for download in 39 languages as of 9 p.m. PT on March 14 from BeautyoftheWeb.com. I'm going to download the final and give it a try. What about you?

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