There’s been a lot of talk lately around Microsoft’s subtle hints that Internet Explorer will no longer be available in “standalone” versions after IE6 SP1. In a nutshell, MS is saying that there won’t be a standalone Internet Explorer 7.
So why are they doing it? More revenue. Browser upgrades don’t cost consumers anything, but operating system upgrades cost money. If Joe Sixpack sees a web site error that says, “You need Internet Explorer 8 to view this site” then he just upgrades his browser for free from Windows Update. However, if the error says, “You need Windows 2005 to view this site” then Microsoft stands a chance of increasing their revenues.
It’s a smart move for the company’s overall value, since they can’t possibly start charging for standalone browser installs, so they know they need to integrate the browser tightly into the OS, and allow for planned OS obsolescence to keep the revenue streams up.
Plus, the formerly frantic release schedule of browsers has slowed to a trickle, so it makes sense to schedule them in tandem with operating systems. Internet Explorer 7 will come around with Longhorn (the new release of Windows for consumers), and the average user will confuse Longhorn’s new browser with the operating system itself. Users will be more likely to shell out for Longhorn if it comes with significant browser improvements.
To paraphrase the old Sun slogan, the browser is the computer.