Will Mozilla's enterprise-hostile support policy boost IE's share?

Microsoft's IE team seems to be hoping to capitalize on Mozilla's new release/support strategy with Firefox that has little to offer to business users.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

My ZDNet colleague Ed Bott has been all over Mozilla's change in its Firefox delivery schedule and support plans -- and how these changes will likely hurt business users. (If you haven't already read his "Mozilla to enterprise customers: 'Drop dead,' go check it out.)

In short, Mozilla is relabeling what previously would likely be point releases of the Firefox browser as full releases, and is speeding up how quickly it plans to drop support for older versions of its browser, seemingly to get its customers to upgrade.

While some consumers may not mind upgrading early and often to the latest version of their favorite browser(s), many businesses can't and don't want to be on that treadmill, due to application dependencies, testing, internal policies, etc. Microsoft -- which seems to be now gravitating toward an annual browser release schedule with Internet Explorer (IE) -- is moving too fast for some business users with whom I've spoken.

But here's the difference between Microsoft and Mozilla: Microsoft is continuing to support older versions of its browsers for years after they've moved beyond them. That's not always a popular decision with developers who are forced to support multiple iterations of IE (like IE 6), but it does give enterprise customers reassurance.

As Computerworld noted today, Microsoft's IE team -- the ones who just sent a cupcake, rather than a full-size cake to Mozilla to mark the delivery of Firefox 5 -- sees Mozilla's new enterprise-hostile upgrade policy as a potential venue for gaining IE share.

Ari Bixhorn, an IE Director, posted on his personal blog this week that he'd like to see companies that need support guarantees to consider IE 8/9 (and presumably 10). From Bixhorn's post, addressed to one business user frustrated by Mozilla's new policies:

"I think I speak for everyone on the IE team when I say we’d like the opportunity to win back your business. We’ve got a great solution for corporate customers with both IE8 and IE9 (more info on our IE9 solution can be found here), and believe we could help you address the challenges you’re currently facing."

Bixhorn noted that Microsoft has committed to support each version of Internet Explorer as long as the latest version of Windows that it runs on is supported. "For example, Windows 7 Enterprise is supported through January 2020. Internet Explorer 9 will therefore also be supported through January 2020," Bixhorn blogged.

Even though Microsoft increasingly is giving its consumer products love, attention (and an increasing share of its marketing dollars), it's good to see the Softies are still thinking about the enterprise market, which is where Microsoft still makes the big bucks.

Meanwhile, speaking of Microsoft and its lifecycle policies, there's an interesting update in the latest quarterly guidance from the company, regarding the .Net Framework.

Microsoft is changing the categorization of the .Net Framework from "major product" to "component," as of .Net 3.5 Service Pack (SP) 1. What does this mean? From the Lifecycle Support team:

"Starting with the release of the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, this release and later releases are now considered Components of the Windows operating system. For complete information on this change, please visit the public announcement page.

"As per the Support Lifecycle policy for Components, support for .NET Framework versions 3.0, 3.0 SP1, 3.0 SP2, and 3.5 ends on July 12, 2011. Customers are advised to move to Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 or later versions prior to this end-of-support date. Microsoft had originally established April 12, 2011, as the end-of-support date, but extended it to July to avoid leaving Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 RTM without available .NET security updates.

Please note: Installation of the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 on Windows 7 is blocked by design because Windows 7 ships with .NET Framework 3.5.1. The Component can be added as a Windows feature available via Programs and Features in the Control Panel."

Update: Back to IE. One of my readers, @BrandonZeider, had a very interesting and valid point, re: Microsoft vs. Mozilla share among business users:

And as we know, those IE 6 users are the 60 percent or so of all users still running XP. So that's a big group of people....

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