Site Navigation

Monday, October 22, 2012

IE10 for Windows 8 to be released on October 26th, 2012

IE10 for Windows 8 to be released on October 26th, 2012.

For developers keeping up to date on IE developments this likely isn't news however there's lots of new things coming that developers need to be aware of.

For starters even though it won't be available on the Oct. 26th launch date there is a version of Internet Explorer 10 coming to Windows 7.  There's been no confirmation from Microsoft yet but there has been a preview announced for Windows 7 in mid November (lets call that Nov.15th) which would suggest at the earliest an RC (Release Candidate) in December and an actual release by January 2013.

What this means is that Web Developers need to be ready to support IE10 even if they haven't yet downloaded the Windows 8 RTM preview OS they probably really should go get a copy as the promised Windows 7 version is way behind schedule.

3 Versions?

A lot is changing in IE10 so lets take a moment to go over the highlights.  For starters there are (or at least will be) 3 versions of IE10. IE10 for Windows 7, IE10 for Windows 8 in Metro Mode and IE10 for Windows 8 in Desktop Mode.

The most interesting (and also most controversial) is IE10 for Metro.  It provides the perfect full screen touch friendly interface for the upcoming Windows 8 tablets including the tablet that Microsoft calls "The Slate" (Forgive me while I LOL thinking about The Flintstones or any other ancient reference.

On the positive side Microsoft added Back/Forward navigation overlays at the middle of the screen on the left and right sides perfect for thumb navigation while holding the tablet... and the full screen mode helps the user dive right in on the content they are viewing.  While on the tablet you can use gestures similar to those on the BlackBerry PlayBook or some Android devices to swipe up/down from the bottom/top of the screen to expose the location bar and a thumbnail list of your active tabs.

On the negative side (yeah you knew there would be one right?) there are several usability issues that affect IE10 and Windows 8 that your users might not realize are due to the browser/OS and not your site.

Before we get into the details of each one its important to understand "how we got here" and thus the back story as best understood by the collective Internet (as Microsoft has failed to provide the story themselves).

The Story:

In developing their next Operating System Microsoft realized that they were starting to significantly lose their dominance in the market.  Apple was making a major comeback with sexy hardware, an OS that just worked and 3 little things called the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.  In fact that last device, the iPad was inventing an entirely new market and Apple was taking it all by storm!  This was upsetting to Microsoft as they had tried to create this market years ago and had failed... and their music player that they had recently built (the Zune) had failed to take any market away from the iPod.  Microsoft was in serious trouble and even they knew it this time.

They needed to make a tablet that could compete in the market and somehow use their desktop dominance to help upsell the tablet and so they realized that being able to use the full Windows desktop on the tablet (not just a VNC/Remote Desktop) was needed - and that would be their biggest selling feature!  However the UI from Windows (even Windows 7) simply wouldn't cut it on a tablet as it was never meant to be driven by touch as a keyboard and mouse provided so much more control.  The solution was to add the UI from their flailing Windows Phone device (even though Microsoft themselves had admitted it was a failed design) that had some very compelling usability features to the tablet and thus kill 2 birds with 1 stone giving both the phone and the new tablet a consistent look and feel.

However now there was a new problem... Microsoft wanted to make the tablet and the desktop version of Windows to have a consistent look to help lure consumers into buying a Windows Tablet when it shared similarities to the desktop they would be familiar with... and thus they decided that both the tablets and the PCs would both have the "touch friendly" Metro interface by default... but both would also have the full blown desktop experience hiding just underneath.  Conceptually this was a massive marketing win and I don't blame Microsoft for taking this approach to try and C.T.A.

The Analysis:

Wait! What? But won't that make 1/2 of the experience on the tablet suck... and the other 1/2 on the desktop PC suck? - why yes... exactly!

There's a very good reason why the iPad was so successful.  It was pre-seeded with 1,000's of iPod/iPhone apps when it was released and the UI was simple, designed entirely for touch... the UI was tailored to the device and the form factor.

Metro is simple too (its just a bunch of squares and rectangles) in fact many think it is too minimalistic... there's no "love" for this UI... no shadows, no rounded corners, no glossy igons, not even shadows or the most basic of 3D effects... you know, the ones that afford usability by making a button so obviously click-able vs. a flat rectangle that isn't.

The classic "desktop" experience on a tablet however... just plain sucks.  It's not touch friendly and anyone that has used VNC or similar tools on an iPad knows that its handy to be able to use a desktop app in an emergency but no one in their right mind would want to do this regularly by choice.

The reverse is also true.  Desktop users love their PCs because they can do anything and get things done. Data entry? you bet! 3D Modeling? yup! Spreadsheets and Databases... legacy Enterprise apps - yeah it all just works.  Metro on a desktop though is clumsy... there's no options for "power users" and unless your boss wants to let you play Angry Birds and other games all day... 99% of Metro will be "fluff" to you.

Wow... so much info to explain and digest.  I think I'll save the really technical details for another post (and I'll add a link below once posted).

(Link to part 2 - The technical details)

In the meantime if you've already tried out Windows 8 and IE 10 let us know your thoughts... have you tested your sites and apps?