Microsoft announced the release of Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 this week. The new version brings the promise of a new era in online productivity and W3C compliant web browsing. However, the second beta, which supposedly is an improvement on the first, also came a couple of caveats.
First, if you have Windows XP SP3, in order to install IE8 Beta 2, you must first uninstall beta 1. In order to uninstall beta 1, you must first uninstall SP3, remove beta 1 and reinstall SP3. If you install beta 2 with Windows XP SP3, you won’t be able to uninstall either the service pack or the browser. According to a statement posted on the IEBlog by Microsoft Program Manager Jane Maliouta, the installation becomes permanent. You can upgrade to later builds of IE 8 but you won’t be able to remove the browser or SP3.
Second, as listed in the release notes, Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 has known compatibility issues with numerous applications, both third-party and Microsoft. Apparently some of these issues existed in the first beta as well, including a major incompatibility with one of Microsoft’s own applications, Visual Studio .NET 7.
When software reaches beta it is usually theoretically in a state where major bugs are addressed and the software is only a step or two away from production. When the software is in beta, it usually means it is ready for usability testing in a real-world environment. Normally a browser application wouldn’t necessarily need such serious scrutiny for compatibility with other independent applications. But this is IE, which, once installed, becomes embedded with Windows.
The inability to be uninstalled in its native OS without practically reinstalling the OS itself (once SP3 is installed it becomes part of the OS) and the issues it has with at least two of Microsoft’s own applications are serious issues. Many software companies would consider such major bugs as software still in alpha, not beta and would take the time to fix them. Mozilla is one example of a company that does this.
The fact that Microsoft was fully aware of these issues when it was in beta 1 and still released them in beta 2 instead of addressing them first tells me that they are rushing to release instead of ensuring stability for beta testing.
Remember, this is the second beta. Theoretically the second beta addresses the bugs found by testers of the first beta. Yet these major bugs purportedly exist in beta 2 as well. What other bugs were not fixed? Ask other beta testers if they want to waste their time logging the same bugs in beta 2 they logged in beta 1. Given this scenario from their point of view, how productive is that?
So, if IE8 beta has so many issues, why even beta test it? I mean, after all, this is a mega giant software company, the largest and most powerful software company in the world. They created this thing called IE8. It’s their little monster. They can essentially write the code to make it do what they want.
Are they that lazy that it is just easier to release it with a disclaimer than to just make it work right to begin with? Or are they in such a hurry to get it to market and stop the leak in market share to Firefox that they just don’t have the time to bother with it?
It may be a little of both, however I contend it is the latter. Given their rush to market with Vista I surmise this is becoming their modus operandi. Apparently they didn’t learn anything from the Vista launch.
Microsoft is losing market share in the browser arena, confidence in the operating system market, trust among the developers and credibility overall.
In other words, I think Microsoft is losing it.