Microsoft to push latest version of IE to users starting in 2012

Microsoft is going to start automatically upgradingWindows PC users to the latest version of the IE browser available for their PCs, as of January next year.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is going to push automatically the most recent version of its Internet Explorer (IE) browsers that is available for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 PCs starting in January 2012.

Microsoft announced its IE auto-upgrade plan on the "Exploring IE" blog on December 15. The move will affect those who have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update, and will start with users in Australia and Brazil.

Microsoft's rationale for the move: "The Web overall is better -- and safer -- when more people run the most up-to-date browser," in the words of post author Ryan Gavin, General Manager, Internet Explorer Business and Marketing.

It's also another piece of Microsoft's continued push to try to get users off older versions of IE so that developers won't have to continue coding to the less-standards-compliant versions of Microsoft's browser.

Microsoft is providing an opt-out for users -- which will likely be used primarily by IT admins/business users -- who aren't willing or able to run the latest version of IE. (This includes enterprise users whose companies have built applications and/or have policies that are keeping them tied to older versions like IE 6.) Enterprise users/admins who want to block Microsoft's automatic upgrade plan can use the IE 8 and IE 9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits.

At the same time, customers who have declined to upgrade to IE 8 or IE 9 in the past when prompted by Windows Update won't be automatically updated, the Softies said. Here's more information on how users can block automatic updates of IE.

Future versions of IE -- starting with IE 10, I'd assume -- will include an option inside the product for users who want to shut off the auto-updating process, today's post said.

What do you think of Microsoft's latest move? Good for customers? Good for Microsoft (which has been dropping in terms of overall browser share this past year, especially compared to Google Chrome)? Or neither?

Update: Microsoft has added more details about its automatic-push plans and how they will and won't affect business customers over on the "Springboard Series" blog.

From that December 15 post:

"We’re re-issuing the IE9 or IE8 Windows Update and removing the additional UI prompt so that it is installed without additional user interaction for a more seamless experience for the end user. The update will ship as a high-priority update for XP and Important class update for Vista and Windows 7. Once issued, this update will install Internet Explorer 8 for users on XP SP3 that are still using IE7 and IE6; users on Vista SP2 and Windows 7 RTM and SP1 will be moved to Internet Explorer 9."

Microsoft isn't going to deliver the coming auto-update IE "package" via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or Microsoft Update. And browser support policies aren't changing, the Springboard post noted; IE versions will continue to be supported as long as the underlying operating system into which they are bundled are supported.

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