IE 7 Announcement: A Retrospective

I think it’s been about three days since Microsoft announced that they will release
a new version of IE. The announcement was so thoroughly blogged and discussed that
I didn’t bother blogging it myself (I was too busy reading what others had written),
but now that the dust has settled, I want to offer my two cents.

First, if you haven’t done so already, you might want to check out the official
Microsoft press release
. If you’re in a hurry, I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s
the most relevant excerpt:

Gates announced Internet Explorer 7.0, designed to add new levels of security
to Windows XP SP2 while maintaining the level of extensibility and compatibility
that customers have come to expect.

Next, read the post
on the IEBlog
. Again, I’ll save you the trouble:

…we listened to customers, analysts, and business partners. We heard a clear
message: "Yes, XP SP2 makes the situation better. We want more, sooner. We
want security on top of the compatibility and extensibility IE gives us, and we
want it on XP. Microsoft, show us your commitment."

What I’m hearing loud and clear here is that Microsoft wants to release a new
version of IE for XP, and they want to focus on security. Now read
the comments left in response to the post on IEBlog. They are far too numerous
to even paraphrase here, and it would probably take you all day to read through
them all, but just read a few at random and the message will be clear, which is
that security updates are fine, but what Microsoft really needs to focus on is
standards compliance and rendering. In other words, "maintaining the level of extensibility
and compatibility that customers have come to expect" is not what customers are
expecting.

Microsoft has put itself in an interesting position. They have publicly announced
that they are listening to their customers, and are committed to giving them what
they want, however they have also indicated that their agenda is not consistent
with what it appears their customers want. I will reserve judgment, but one thing
I will say is that it’s not yet clear to me whether Microsoft has created an
opportunity for themselves with this announcement, or for Firefox.