Friday 15 April 2011

Virtual IE6: Gateway to Chrome

As of late, I have been writing more "here is an interesting fact" or "have a look here at this new bit of technology news".  Today, I am going to have express my personal opinion.

First the fact:  Microsoft does not want anyone to virtualize Internet Explorer 6 (IE6)  for deployment on Windows 7 without shipping a copy of Windows XP as well.

And next the opinion; this is a bad idea.

Some may disagree, as Microsoft has published a white paper titled, "Solutions for Virtualizing Internet Explorer" which you can read here:

This Microsoft white paper is pretty extensive (at 31 pages) and offers 3 solutions for virtualizing IE6 including;

1) Microsoft Med-V
2) Terminal Services (and therefore RDS and Citrix)
3) Windows XP Mode

These solutions will work - as they can deliver IE6 web applications but not as an integrated desktop solution. A few vendors were trying to deliver an integrated virtualized solution for IE6  via ThinApp, SVS and Spoon.NET. Microsoft took a pretty strong view that other than the three above listed virtualization options (Med-V, TS and XP Mode) you should not virtualize IE6 due to licensing constraints as explained in the Microsoft Lifecycle Support note here;
"Internet Explorer is considered as a component of the operating system (OS) for which it was released. The support timelines for IE are inherited from the OS and its associated service packs. Basically, this means that the versions of Internet Explorer that shipped for a specific OS or service pack will be supported with the support lifecycle of the OS or service pack. Support for older versions of IE will not end unless we ship a replacement version of IE in a future OS service pack."
You can read the whole document here:

Also, you can read the Gartner article on this topic here:

So, according to Microsoft, unless you virtualize a whole copy of IE6 and the surrounding  operating system (in this case Windows XP) you can't virtualize IE6.

I think that this decision is a mistake. I can understand that Microsoft wants (and needs) people to move off of IE6 and move to Windows 7.  However, requiring a full copy of Windows of XP for each instance of IE6 is too much. Particularly, for large enterprise clients who may only have 1 or 2 web-based IE6 dependency  business- critical applications that are used by thousands of clients. This would require thousands of additional copies of XP and the associated management costs.

As a direct result of the these constraints imposed by Microsoft, we see a large number of enterprise clients effectively saying "Never again!" to a single browser desktop model. Most of our clients were happy with a single browser on XP. The advantages of this approach strongly out weighed any negative considerations. However, with Windows 7 we are seeing a dual-browser approach adopted by large enterprises. And, predominantly that other browser is Google's Chrome.

As a direct result of Microsoft's restrictive policy on IE6, we are seeing the introduction of Chrome on enterprise desktops. Surely, this was not the plan??


Gary Schare said...

Greg, are you familiar with UniBrows? Runs IE6 natively inside IE8. We agree virtualizing all of Windows to run IE6 is a mistake. Cracking an egg with a sledgehammer is how customers often position it to us.

Gary Schare
Browsium, Inc.

Greg Lambert said...


Yep - Browsium is very cool solution. Say Hi to both Matt's for me! :)