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Internet Explorer 10: Windows Vista users out of luck

By Todd Bishop
GeekWire

It might sound impossible, but Microsoft is about to make its Windows Vista operating system even more undesirable.

The Redmond company is confirming that Internet Explorer 10, the next version of its web browser, won’t work on the 4-year-old Windows Vista (or earlier Windows versions) in the same way that IE9 left the older Windows XP (and Windows 2000) behind.

(Msnbc.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

“Windows Vista customers have a great browsing experience with IE9,” Microsoft says in a statement, “but in building IE10 we are focused on continuing to drive the kind of innovation that only happens when you take advantage of the ongoing improvements in modern operating systems and modern hardware.”

Oddly, the move won’t cause nearly the stir that Microsoft’s decision to overlook Windows XP did. That’s because Vista, the legendary Microsoft flop, is barely above 10 percent worldwide market share. XP is still used by upwards of half the market, like a reliable old car that people just can’t bear to ditch.

Firefox, in contrast, has made a point of continuing to support XP. Engineering director Johnathan Nightingale called the user base for Windows XP “too big for us to just leave them behind.”

The news about IE10 on Windows Vista emerged this week as Microsoft released the first “platform preview” of the next browser, a sneak peek at some of the upgrades planned under the hood. People attempting to install the preview on Vista got an error message signaling that it wouldn’t work.

Despite the early preview, Internet Explorer 10 isn’t expected to be released in finished form until next year. Windows guru Ed Bott, writing on ZDNet, explains that Microsoft is scheduled to stop offering technical support to mainstream Windows Vista users next year, and the company has said in the past that new browsers won’t be made available for unsupported versions of the operating system.

IE10 is widely believed to be the version that ships with Windows 8 next year.

Of course, it’s in Microsoft’s business interests to push users to new versions of its operating system. But the company defends the practice on technical grounds — saying it is moving the browser market forward by opting not to “build to the lowest common denominator.”

Todd Bishop of GeekWire can be followed on Twitter and Facebook, no matter which OS you use.

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