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By | Gavin Clarke 16th July 2015 18:56

Feel like you're being herded onto Windows 10? Well, you should

Microsoft's IE11 browser push to flip business

Comment Roll up, roll up for Windows 10, the greatest show on Earth! Forget everything you think you know or might have heard. THIS changes everything.

Windows 7 and Windows 8? Pah. THIS is the one you want.

Yes, the bandwagon on the Windows 10 hype machine is trundling along, and its online followers are hailing its game-changing characteristics. Just look at the eye-catching Cortana digital assistant, and marvel at Edge – the new web browser that's the most standards-compliant effort ever to emerge from Redmond.

Buy the bait on HoloLens, Xbox streaming, and Universal Apps, too, while you can. Windows 10 won’t mean anything to those who matter – the big businesses with the huge budgets that keep Microsoft rolling in billions of dollars.

Yes, the Start menu and desktop paradigm – tossed aside for the Metro touch-friendly user interface – are back, and they are front and centre once more.

And yes, a new version of Office is coming, and there’s all the usual talk of improved performance and security.

But CIOs tell the Reg that if they do a desktop refresh, they'll move from Windows XP to Windows 7. A handful of brave souls have gone, or are going, to Windows 8.

Huge swathes will wait six months to a year or more after Windows 10's release to move, according to an April poll by System-Center partner Adaptiva. The wait-a-year number is 49 per cent, but for the really large accounts – more than 100,000 systems – that number jumped to 80 per cent.

And that's in spite of Microsoft doing all it can to grease the skids: claiming Windows 10 will work on existing PCs running Windows 7 or 8, making Windows 10 free for download up to a year after the July 29 official release, and forcing automatic updates on people, whether they want them or not.

So why won't businesses move?

Reasons span the usual and the unique. Companies will conduct proper due diligence on the OS to ensure that it doesn’t break their apps. They will want bugs and problems in the new OS to bed down through successive updates before planning a well-considered move.

With the air full of chatter about Cortana and HoloLens, Microsoft has done rather little to explain the relevance of Windows 10; but they're quietly laying the groundwork.

It is the browser that's the hook and line that Microsoft will use to slowly reel in these big fish. And by browser, I mean tired and overlooked Internet Explorer – not Edge.

Historically, the browser has been both burden and benefit for Microsoft: IE got Microsoft on the web and its marriage with Windows produced a joyful and self-replicating monopoly for both pieces of software. On the down side, thanks to IE6, many major corporations remain hopelessly stuck on Windows XP despite the looming end of support date that came and went in 2014.

If their enterprise or web apps were written to work with IE6, re-writing apps for a successor browser that worked on a newer operating system wasn't a winner from the perspective of time and cost, so it was postponed. Endlessly.

In preparation for Windows 10, however, Microsoft is killing support for legacy IE on the PC: Versions 8, 9 and 10 won't receive technical support or security updates from January 12, 2016. You can read more here.

Microsoft is therefore ever so gently herding customers onto IE11, which will run on Windows 10 – just without the Edge rendering and other sexy stuff.

That has two effects: one is engagement for consultants and browser experts like Browsium working on customers' migrations and re-mediation issues to beat that January deadline.

The other is a potentially easier move to Windows 10. Native Windows applications running on Windows 7 should work on Windows 10, but web applications won't unless they are first moved to IE11 on Windows 7.

Microsoft will therefore hope that with the web apps on IE11, the rest of the estate follows and Windows 7 gets swapped out for Windows 10.

There's just one catch: the fact that IE11 works also on Windows 7 and 8.

Don’t expect this to derail the Windows 10 bandwagon.

Already, Microsoft reckons one billion devices will run the operating system. Six months or so from now, expect Microsoft to start crowing about having hit the figure. It's messaging it already, deliberately conflating Windows 10 and Windows Phone to make these seem like the same thing.

Also expect Windows 10 to creep into the enterprise thanks to BYOD and CYOD. Whether firms choose to put it on the approved list of supported tech will matter.

It's just that this month's Windows 10 launch is a non-event for big business. In roughly a year from now, we will see the true effects of Microsoft’s policy to drop support for older versions of IE. ®

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