Google’s support policies shove users towards Chrome
Google has announced that it will stop supporting Internet Explorer 9 with Google Apps, meaning users of Microsoft’s ageing browser will likely lose access to key features.
It’s not clear exactly what functionality IE9 users will surrender, but a support page on Google’s site claims that “unsupported browsers” will only be able to access Calendars in read mode and the basic HTML version of Gmail (although given that descendants of Picasso now appear to be in charge of the regular Gmail interface, that may not be such a bad thing).
Google’s announcement on dropping support for IE9 claims there’s nothing pernicious going on here, merely that it’s the continuation of a long-stated policy to support only the past two versions of major browsers. Now Microsoft’s unveiled IE11 with Windows 8.1, it’s time to push IE9 off the cliff. “End users who access Gmail and other Google Apps services from an unsupported browser will be notified within the next few weeks through an in-product notification message or an interstitial pages with information about modern browsers and how to upgrade to them,” Google’s blog post states.
Choking off support for two-year-old IE9 – which still has a near 10% worldwide market share – while continuing to offer your own browser on a 12-year-old operating system is a pretty smart way of putting a gun to the user’s head
Except, of course, it’s not as easy as that. IE9 is, due to Microsoft’s own byzantine support system, the most recent version of the browser that users of Windows Vista can install. IE8, the latest version of Microsoft’s browser that runs on Windows XP, was lopped off Google’s support list last year. Yet, Vista and XP are still running on more than a third of the world’s desktop PCs, according to the latest stats from NetApplications.
Now, you might argue, there’s nothing to stop XP and Vista users running alternative browsers. Indeed, Google recently announced that it would continue to support Windows XP on its Chrome browser until 2015, unlike Microsoft, which has long since cut XP adrift in terms of browser updates, and plans to stop supporting the OS altogether by next spring.
However, if you’re working on an XP or Vista desktop in a company that doesn’t allow you to install your own desktop applications, you’re rather screwed. No more checking your Gmail at work, or making changes to the Google Calendar. And it’s not only skivers who rely on Google Apps: many schools and businesses have made the move to Google Apps, and there will be plenty of legacy PCs knocking around their networks that are going to lose core functionality unless they move away from Internet Explorer.
Google’s support page cheerfully states that “organisations that depend on old versions of Internet Explorer may want to consider a dual browser strategy”. It’s hard not to conclude that Google’s support policies aren’t designed, at least in part, to persuade companies to migrate from IE to Chrome. Choking off support for two-year-old IE9 – which still has a near 10% worldwide market share – while continuing to offer your own browser on a 12-year-old operating system is a pretty smart way of putting a gun to the user’s head, while still looking like the good guy.
Well played, Google. Well played.