Can Microsoft's mobile browser take on the competition?

With the pending 2009 release of Internet Explorer Mobile 6, Microsoft is making a major change in its approach to the mobile Web.

In November Microsoft announced a package of emulator images, which developers can add to Visual Studio 2005 or 2008 to test applications, including IE Mobile 6, for Windows Mobile 6.1.4. Here's what you can expect in the new mobile browser:

  • A full HTML rendering engine, based on the code from the older version of the desktop browser, IE 6.
  • Support for Adobe Flash Lite 3.1,to improve multimedia experience (by contrast the Safari browser in Apple's iPhone currently lacks Flash support,but supports Scripting and CSS).
  • Enhanced Script and AJAX support (Jscript v5.7 from IE8)
  • The ability to quickly shift from a site's mobile page to its standard desktop version.
  • Layout fixes to accommodate a mobile screen (text wrap)
  • Deeper integration with search
  • User interface improvements,Web search integrated with the browser's address bar, multiple levels of zooming and touch (but not multi-touch as with the iPhone) with support for panning.
For some observers, this is not the cutting edge of the mobile Web. In part, that's because Microsoft remains focused not on the new browser war but on the mobile operating system war.

Underneath the current IE Mobile browser is the old IE4 code, with its own unique set of bugs making web browsing in IE Mobile a miserable experience.It supports a fewer Web standards than the latest desktop browser, Internet Explorer 7 and requires some muscular hardware resources: 128MB of RAM, and a 400MHz processor, according to Microsoft. Nor will it be available as a separate product: the operating system on the handheld has to be reflashed to support the new browser, so Microsoft will partner with device makers and mobile operators to supply it.

But even with the improvements and the benefits cited by Microsoft in its forthcoming major release,end users have a growing number of alternatives, from vendors who are pushing mobile innovation far ahead. These include two different mobile browsers from Opera Software with touch friendly PAN/Zoom Interface, Firefox for Mobile ("Fennec") from Mozilla, the browser with the Open Handset Alliance's Android mobile OS (separate from Google's Chrome desktop browser), the Nokia browser for Symbian-based phones, and server-based browser introductions from Skyfire and Bitstream.

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23 Comments

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Crappity crap, I thought we had got rid of Trident 6. :-(

Drop it Microsoft, PLEASE. Let the web community MOVE ON.

I can't imagine how many man hours lost on making the web backwards compatible with IE 6 these days.

Jugalator said,
I can't imagine how many man hours lost on making the web backwards compatible with IE 6 these days.

On average, I spend ~2-3 hrs extra per site testing and ensuring compatibility with IE 6. It used to be a lot more, too before I had gathered a complete set of scripts and tools for testing and debug.

What bugs me the most is a particular error related to modifying the DOM tree before the page has fully loaded. IE7 fails gracefully. IE6 pops an error message saying something to the effect of "This page contains errors and has stopped loading" (even when the page has visibly fully loaded). It then redirects to a blank page and leaves no chance for debugging.

IE6 FTL.

Can Microsoft make a Desktop browser to take on the competition?

Not so sure. The yellow bar is hideous. Firefox is quite extensible. Chrome is simple clean and quick.

I have no faith for the mobile space.

By the time WM7 is out, IE9 will either be out or close to it most likely...

Hopefully by then the might have learned something and include their most recent browser and hopefully it's decent.

Oh, who am I kidding. IE5 for WM7!

No way with IE6 on WMO Devices. It the biggest pyle of crap. Opera and Skyfire blow it away. I have cooked it in to one of my custom wmo 6.1 roms and it is very slow in rendering and very laggy. Also it is not designed for qvga WMO devices so you really need a VGA device to use it. I agree Microsoft should release a IE8 adapted for WMO. Microsoft please test your mobile browsers before releasing in the future. Besides that I still like WMO, I will never touch an iPhone/GayPhone

My HTC touch HD has a IE that reefers to itself ( Via agent string ) as IEMobile 7.11 )
I was unable to find a about dialog... Browser if very good, at least as good as opera 9.5 .

A full HTML rendering engine, based on the code from the older version of the desktop browser, IE 6.
Are you kidding me? Webkit and Presto can run in full on a mobile, and Microsoft is suddenly bringing the POS every web developer has wanted gone for at least 5 years... back. WTF?

I'm not going to support it, and neither will a lot of web developers. Why? I can live with a few CSS hacks, but I need transparent PNG's. And I doubt the mobile IE6 will support the PNG hacks which utilize directx.

At an absolute minimum it should be using the IE7 code as it's base, since it's a 2009 release they should be using IE8.

MS aren't going to win back the mobile web by including a sub-standard product.

Exactly. Heck, if they are including the AJAX technology "from IE8", then why not just include the rendering engine too? Would probably be easier to integrate, too.

The only thing this shows me is that Microsoft's Internet Explorer team couldn't code good code if their life depended on it. There's no reason that the IE8, or at least the IE7, engine couldn't run on a phone. Webkit can do it. Presto can do it. Gecko can do it. what gives, MS? Biggest software company in the world can't code?

Either keep your pity (and pitiful) code, or give the users something they could actually use. Until then, my iPhone is where I'm staying, and that's where I'll develop my mobile apps thank you very much.

simon360
Microsoft is suddenly bringing the POS every web developer has wanted gone for at least 5 years... back.

Why do you like IE4 so much??

IE6 is better, sure. But not by much, that's the problem. They might as well not do it at all as far as I'm concerned.

Actually... ironically... WM5's browser (IE4?) supported PNG transparences when IE6 for Desktop didn't. I still find THAT sad that the mobile browser got it first. Hopefully it still does support it.

Actually, Presto (in the form of Opera Mobile 9.5) is buggy and has seriously messed up font rendering and WebKit (in the form of Iris) also has font rendering problems, fits to screen poorly and is the slowest browser you have ever used in your life (which is not that much different to the iPhone one, to be honest).