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Ex-Microsofties' IE6 kill squad hits UK

Former IE team members aid aging web apps

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A team of ex-Microsoft staffers have set up shop in Blighty to finally wean British netizens off IE6.

Browsium has arrived after just a year of doing business in the US. It is making and selling a plug-in for IE8 and 9 called UniBrows, which runs your legacy IE6 apps while letting you ditch IE6.

The idea is that UniBrows lets you move critical, line-of-business applications onto a more recent version of IE or Windows without going through the pain of re-coding.

Microsoft delivered IE6 a decade ago and despite three successors, it remains firmly entrenched because so many businesses-critical apps in the public and private sector – things like Siebel CRM – were hardwired for the browser at the time.

IE6 still has about 2 per cent of the worldwide browser market and 2.4 per cent of the UK, according to a Microsoft site dedicated to annihilating a browser it now hates.

Microsoft wants shot of IE6 because it is preventing uptake of new versions of the browser and rollout of the latest versions of Windows. IE6 also doesn't work with later versions of apps like SharePoint.

Windows and Windows Live corporate vice-president and chief financial officer Tami Reller claimed in July that two-thirds of business PCs still run Windows XP, meaning they are not moving to Windows 7 and are unlikely to buy Windows 8 once it is here.

Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner called Windows XP and IE6 "dead" and urged partners to refresh customers' desktops and browsers.

Redmond hates IE6 so much, it has launched a global campaign to encourage downloads of IE9 to push IE6 use down to less than 1 per cent of worldwide market share.

Browsium president and chief operating officer Gary Schare told The Reg the UK remains one of the biggest markets for Microsoft technologies and one of the strongest adopters of IE6. Released in 2001, it set the high-water mark of Microsoft's browser market share – hitting 95 per cent – and was jumped on by companies in the rush of programming around Y2K.

The UK, meanwhile, is also clinging to Windows XP, the version of Windows built for IE6 and the only version that still runs IE6 natively. You could run IE6 in Windows 7 using that operating system's XP Mode or using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), but you need to make sure your PC has the technical specs necessary for virtualisation.

"The amount of Windows XP and IE dependencies we see in the UK dwarfs any other country," Schare said.

Schare spent 14 years at Microsoft as director of various product and marketing teams – he spent four of those years leading IE product management, joining in the wake of IE6 to deliver IE7. Browsium, which started in summer 2010, has 10 employees. Six of them are ex-Microsofties, with four – including Schare – having worked on the business and technology side of IE.

To use Browisum's UniBrows, the customer downloads the IE6 files from Microsoft that are needed to re-create the IE6 engine into a Browsium directory on a PC. UniBrows runs in the newer version of IE and will call the IE6 engine when needed, such as when there is a call to a specific URL needed by your legacy app. Rules for calls are set up by your IT department.

Having the customer download the IE6 files to a directory keeps the IE6 code quarantined from a security perspective while Browsium reckons it isn't getting in trouble with Microsoft as it's not altering Redmond's precious closed-source code.

Selling UniBrows in the UK will be CDG. The software is sold on a per-user basis, typically priced $5 per seat with a price break for volume. ®

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