Implications of IE7 Beta

In this article I have delineated how and why the new IE7 beta is such a monumental disappointment from Microsoft. In effect, Bill Gates and company are saying to the IT community: “we control the browser market and therefore we can dictate the nature of the Web interface. What standards and technologies are to be adopted, when and at what rate. Take it or leave it.”

This reviewer is recommending to all IT corporates, ISVs, and end users to leave it. In this case switch to any of the excellent and by most reviewers estimations, superior browsers. Take your choice. Firefox, Opera and Safari are among the top alternatives. Each one has better security, ease of use, and functional capabilities. All are better than the minimally improved IE7. If these browsers manage to gain 50-80% market share (general consensus they are at 15% now in North America, 20%+ in Europe and very mixed percentages in other world locations), Microsofts ability to dictate the nature of the Web interface is effectively broken.

Implication 1: Microsoft is an enemy to the Web interface

Here is the most important factor to remember about IE7. It is a tipping point. It is Microsoft for the third time clearly tipping its hand and showing that Redmond is no friend to Web development. In fact, Microsoft is an enemy to the Web interface. It regards the Web interface as pulling users and applications away from Windows desktop and making them cross platform which threatens the Windows desktop monopoly. Hence Microsoft is trying to sell the Smart Client, that is Office and Windows desktop based application enablers, as replacements for the browser interface.

And they have been engaged in a not so subtle campaign to cutoff the development oxygen to the Web interface by not updating IE for close to 6 years, keeping W3C standards from being completed on IE and thwarting the emergence of most other Web browser centric innovations and new technologies. XML has been co-opted and Redmond is now starting to back away from a number of basic XML standards.

Implication 2: Microsoft clearly expects to win the “new browser wars”

Even with the new timid tabbed interface, Redmond figures that just good enough security plus RSS and a few other GUI baubles should bring IE on par with the other browsers – and that means no switching from the big corporate shops. But there is more. Redmond is hedging its bets.

Atlas is the new AJAX-Asychronous JavaScript And XML frame work from Microsoft. Microsoft is packaging it so that, according to Charles Fitzgerald, Microsofts Development Platforms Product Manager, “People who do (AJAX development) are rocket scientists, … and in some ways, this papers over the mess that is JavaScript development. Its easy-to-build spaghetti code.” Read this also as an opportunity to put the Microsoft proprietary JScript/ASP.NET brand on what has so far been a cross platform and cross browser development framework.

Microsoft may make gesture towards putting in a “support the W3C standards switch in Visual Studio, but only on its terms. This may very well be a sop to WASP and other Web standards interest groups because Microsoft will determine which W3C standards will be supported and exactly how far.

Implication 3: Microsoft needs to protect its huge cash cow, Office. Smart Clients are indispensable

If Microsoft executives have to choose between Web Standards and establishing Smart Clients as a defacto standard – this is a no-brainer in Redmond.

Implication 4: Astute shops should plan for IT Corporates to do nothing about switching off IE

With Just-Good-Enough IE7, the security, ease of use, and features of non-IE browsers will supply a smaller ROI for switching out of IE. Corporates may simply not act in their own interest. Astute IT shops should be aware of this possibility. Fortunately there are some rapidly maturing options in the Web development and presentation arenas.

DHTML and Ajax tools are rapidly coming to market. This includes a new update ofIsomorphics, one of the AJAX pioneers and a very powerful AJAX toolset from Tibco, General Interface division. These are both very impressive and mature tools because AJAX is really a “born again” framework at least 4 -5 years old. Both of these tools finally bring a full IDE to JavaScript going well beyond Macromedia Dreamweaver, ActiveState Komodo and HTMLKit among other tools offering degrees of JavaScript support.

Second, developers should consider the Flash RIA available from Macromedia in its Flex, Central and soon Zorn developmental tools and Laszlosystems Open Source,Flash-based, Laszlo Server. The new improved speed, visual properties, video compression and performance of the new Flash 8 player will help make the Flash RIA more compelling. It is already a strong cross platform delivery vehicle for “Information at your Fingertips” wherever you are and whatever devices you are using. With Flash Player 8, it only gets better.

Third, the new Java IDEs offer some very attractive options between Swing, J2ME, JSF, and SWT presentation development frameworks. Even Swing is now moving down to PDAs, mobile phones, and off to browser as Applets and desktops as applications. And with so many very good IDEs for Java ddevelopment – there is a richness of highly able Open Source to powerful commercial Java IDEs to choose from. For example, Suns Java Studio Creator 2 , based on Open Source NetBeans IDE has added JSF, JSwing, AWT, and J2ME presentation layers capabilities to a very useful database binding, Web services and AJAX savvy environ.

So astute shops should be hedging their bets too. They should identify which of the three above presentation tools meets their cross platform delivery needs best – just in case their colleagues cede control of the Web interface to Microsoft yet again.

(c) JBSurveyer 2005