Tag Archives: Internet Explorer 9

Windows Phone 7: Where’s my Browser?

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Microsoft has locked itself out of the competition.

With the release of the Mango update back in September, Microsoft undoubtedly improved Internet Explorer on their Windows Phone platform. WP7 now features a full-fledged version of IE9 designed specifically mobile devices, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the browser that was available before the update.

However, many WP7 users like me would love to have Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or even Safari on their handsets. Why are these popular third-party browsers nowhere to be found on the platform?

Blame Microsoft

For some reason, the folks in Redmond have decided that all web browsing on their mobile OS should be based on Internet Explorer, meaning that any third-party browsers must use the IE rendering engine that is native to the phone.

Developers are limited to customizing the UI of the browser, while using the rendering engine of the phone’s native IE9 Mobile. A few developers have done just that, with varying success. A couple of the most notable browsers available in the Marketplace, Browser+ and Browse On, have done well to improve the lacking interface of IE, but still have their problems.

If Mozilla or Google were to bring their beloved browsers to the platform, they’d without a doubt be great. Unfortunately, they have no plans to do so, thanks to the restrictive nature of Microsoft’s platform.

Microsoft has told developers they’re welcome to try to make a good web browser with Silverlight, the technology that most apps are built with on WP7. As a developer, that doesn’t sound like fun at all. It’s not surprising that Mozilla is ignoring the platform entirely.

Google has several apps available for Android and iOS, including Google+. On WP7, Google currently has nothing more than a Google Search application that, upon clicking on a search result, opens the target page in Internet Explorer. Good grief.

It appears that Microsoft’s close-minded approach to third-party support is keeping some of the industry’s largest hitters away from the platform, which is effectively limiting the platform’s ability to grow into a respectable player in the smartphone market. Frustrating third-party developers is a sure-fire way to frustrate your user base, which is a questionable approach for a company that is trying to strengthen their position in a highly competitive market. Hopefully Microsoft changes their stance on this issue, not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their users, and for the benefit of the smartphone market as a whole.

Internet Explorer 9: If Chrome jumped off a bridge…

There’s no doubt that Google has done something right with its increasingly popular web browser. I wrote an article earlier this year about my switch to Chrome from Firefox, mainly because the good folks at Mozilla decided that they should copy many of the core elements from Google’s acclaimed browser. It’s not that this is a bad thing, but it made me realize that if Chrome is good enough for Mozilla to copy, it must be worth using.

Now comes along Internet Explorer 9, fully compatible with Vista SP2 and Windows 7. As a web developer, I really couldn’t care less about another iteration of the worst browser in the history of the internet which constantly forces me to write two versions of my CSS. But as a tech enthusiast, I was curious to check it out to see if Microsoft could do anything to fix the problems that have plagued their browser for years.

I went to download the browser at http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/, fresh off the assembly line, and I’ve been using it almost exclusively since its release on March 14th, 2011. Not surprisingly, the newly designed browser looked very familiar.

To be fair, I expected it to look familiar; Internet Explorer typically doesn’t change too radically from release to release. But I am surprised, however, that it looked more like Chrome than Internet Explorer 8. Microsoft has streamlined the UI, providing as many pixels for page viewing as possible. But to be different, instead of utilizing the space above the address bar for tabs, Ballmer & Company decided to shrink the address bar down and squeeze the tabs into the space next to them, leaving an entire row of wasted space at the top of the window. The new design is definitely welcome, but it still feels like they missed the mark just a bit.

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Image courtesy of Brian @ http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/370994

Aside from copying Chrome’s robust feature set and minimalist UI, they have added a few nice features, such as the ability to pin a website to your task bar. If you have a particular web site that you visit frequently, it is now easy to get there with a single click, saving precious seconds of your time and extending the life of your mouse a few clicks at a time. Unfortunately, this feature is only compatible with Windows 7.

Overall, IE9 is a huge improvement in design, features, and speed for Microsoft’s web browser. While many of the changes are a few years behind their competitors, it is without a doubt a step in the right direction. However, I can’t help but feel like IE9 is the crippled result of Google Chrome jumping off a bridge and landing on the rocks below.

If only Microsoft would do something to wean Windows XP users off of IE6…