Microsoft previewed its latest version of its Internet Explorer Web browser at the Mix conference in Las Vegas on March 16, 2010, with the launch of the beta version following in September 2010, and the final version some time after. It was clear as early as its preview that Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) would have several notable improvements.
In recent years, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been gradually losing browser market share to Mozilla’s popular Firefox, and Google’s fairly recently launched Chrome, but with IE9 it’s fighting back.
It’s not all good news for Internet Explorer users, however. IE9 is not compatible with Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.
This is a pretty big deal, in the sense that though Windows XP was released in 2001, Microsoft is committed to providing support for it through 2014, and it’s still the most commonly used operating system in the world.
Providing support for something, however, does not mean having to make every subsequent upgrade to other software compatible with it. Microsoft’s position is that a state of the art browser needs a state of the art operating system, not a 2001 operating system. For one thing, IE9 uses the advanced Direct2D feature of DirectX for graphics, which Windows 7 and Windows Vista SP2 have but Windows XP does not. In order for IE9 to be compatible with Windows XP, Microsoft would have had to forego some of the improvements of IE9, or would have had to devise various complex workarounds.
So if you attempt to use IE9 with Windows XP, expect to run into a “Windows Internet Explorer 9 does not support any operating system earlier than Windows Vista SP2” error message.
What Microsoft would most like to see no doubt is XP users upgrade their operating system to Windows 7, or obtain a new computer that already has Windows 7.
Surely some folks will do precisely that, however others will choose to take a closer look at the aforementioned Firefox or Chrome browsers, check out a lesser known browser, or even switch to a Mac.
Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) of course continues to work with Windows XP as well as the newer versions of Windows, so another option for XP users is simply to stick with IE8 and live without the IE9 improvements.