Gartner: Microsoft Should Help With IE6 Migration

Two senior analysts say that IE6 is slowing enterprise deployment of Windows 7 because the new operating system does not provide support for the almost decade old browser's custom apps.

Many recent studies and polls say the dam has broken -- or is in the process of breaking -- on deployments of Windows 7 in the enterprise.

However, many IT organizations are getting tripped up by the fact that they have masses of Web applications that were specifically written to run in Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), according to a recent Gartner report.

In fact, the analysts who wrote the report want Microsoft to help foot the bill for at least temporarily hosting them on Windows 7.

IE6 was the browser that came as part of Windows XP, which until Windows 7, was the most deployed operating system ever. The problem is that many IE6 applications will not run on IE8 -- the current version of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) browser and the only one in release that will work on Windows 7.

Now, though, PC managers have to do something about the IE6/XP problem, according to the study. Windows 7 demand has been skyrocketing, making it the most popular version of Windows ever. In its first year which closed at the end of October, consumers and businesses bought some 240 million licenses.

However, there's that problem about IE6 apps not running on IE8, and that's turning into a serious traffic jam that wastes time and money. IE6 supported applications that were not written to stringent Web standards, and as IE gets ever more standards compliant, those older non-compliant apps won't run on IE8 -- or on IE9, which is currently in beta test and due out in the first half of 2011.

"Through 2014, IE8 compatibility problems will cause at least 20 percent of organizations to run overtime or over budget on their Windows 7 migration projects," the report, titled "Solving the IE6 Dilemma for Windows 7," said.

The report was written by Gartner vice presidents Michael Silver and David Mitchell Smith.

Microsoft officials have repeatedly said that they'd love to kill off both XP and IE6 but that customers still depended on them.

The clock is ticking, though, and as the migration gets closer, some PC decision makers are discovering that they have higher numbers of problematic applications than they originally had thought.

"We've seen failure rates in the range of 40 percent," Silver told

Then there's the other pincer. In early April 2014, all "extended support" for Windows XP and IE6 will be cut off. Most sources of new XP licenses have already been cut off by Microsoft.

There are virtualization solutions to the problem, but those require licensing extra software, which usually comes with a price tag.

"Gartner clients report that Microsoft commonly advises them to run Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) to resolve these issues, which requires licensing Windows Software Assurance and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), and outfitting each PC with a Windows XP virtual machine," the report said.

That could add $50 or more to the cost of each PC where a user needs to run an IE6 application. Besides the money, using Microsoft's solution can slow PC performance, the report added.

What's more, if users choose to go with third vendor virtualization solutions, Microsoft may tell them they may be out of compliance with Windows' licensing terms.

Still, because many of the compatibility problems were at least partly caused by Microsoft in its push a decade ago to attract Web developers to IE over competitors' browsers, Silver and Smith said the company should help foot the bill for at least temporarily hosting IE6 apps on IE8.

"If Microsoft is unhappy with organizations using IE virtualization to minimize costs, it should offer other forms of assistance. One way would be for Microsoft to help organizations provide access to IE6 through Windows Terminal Services, a method it approves," the report said.

"Microsoft could provide Windows 2003 Server software and associated Remote Desktop Services Client Access Licenses at significant discounts or at no charge through April 2014 for the sole use of accessing IE6 ... Organizations need to resolve IE problems and begin their migration to Windows 7 as soon as possible, and Microsoft needs to do more to help."

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Tags: Microsoft, IE, Browers, Gartner, IE6

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