Microsoft’s final hope

I suspect I am like many (if not most) web developers these days in that I only keep Windows around for one reason: to test my work on Internet Explorer. It’s incredibly expensive too: I had to buy a special fatty box that could handle two virtual machines, a bunch of Windows XP licenses (each of which only allows me to have one person logged into the box at any given time, so forget having two team members being able to look at bugs together), couple Outlook licenses, and the time required for my Ops guy to set up a separate VM each for IE6 and IE7. Just understanding and complying with the licensing issues is a non-trivial requirement — personally I think I’m too stupid for the job, cause I can’t wrap my head around the idea that your software can lock onto your hardware and refuse to install on any new hard disk thereafter.

During the era of Microsoft’s dominance, who would ever have thought that a piece of software given away for free is completely, 100% driving my use of Windows? It’s not even the much-vaunted Windows desktop apps any more — is quite good now, and I vastly prefer Keynote/OmniGraffle to PowerPoint/Visio — and I never really managed to use their server apps or developer tools. Even more ironic is the fact that Microsoft is a company completely riven in two by their inability to embrace the web fully due to the success of their desktop software… and yet their last claw-hold on millions of developers like me is IE. Talk about your immanent contradictions!

I don’t actually mind IE7… what I really hate is IE6. It probably adds a good 15% “tax” in dev and QA time to support its crappy CSS model. I wonder if the time has come for the web world to seriously mount a campaign to destroy IE6 once and for all. Rifkin’s highly unscientific poll and Renkoo’s weekly traffic graphs lead me to believe that the key to change is corporate computers — individual users seem to change over to IE7 when the auto-updater tells them to, unless they have a pressing reason not to — and therefore the key is to sway the hearts and minds of IT staff everywhere until we reach a tipping point. At this point even Microsoft would probably be happy to join in stomping IE6.

What do you think… could we launch a campaign? Join hands, sing Kumbaya, and drive IE6’s market share below 20%? I have a dream!

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