Google's policy of discontinuing support for aging versions of Internet Explorer will nearly cut out businesses and consumers who run Google Apps on Windows Vista.
That's because Google said Tuesday that it will discontinue support for Internet Explorer 9 in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, IE9 is the most modern browser that Microsoft supports with Windows Vista.
Since Microsoft has declined to make IE10 available to Windows Vista users (the minimum OS supported is Windows 7) that means that Vista users may not realize that they'll be unable to use Google's Apps services in the near future to full effect.
Windows XP users won't be able to use Google Apps, because IE10 won't run on that OS, either. However, users affected by the change can (or will be forced to, depending on your perspective) upgrade to a new, compliant PC, and Apps should run just fine.
And it means users can switch over to Chrome. Google said recently that it would continue to support Windows XP with Chrome through April 2015, so there's a pretty easy out for those businesses or consumers who are allowed to change browsers on a whim.
Google's policy is to support Google Chrome, as well as Mozilla's Firefox, IE, and Apple's Safari. "Each time a new version of one of these browsers is released, we begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version," Google said in a blog post. Google Chrome auto-updates behind the scenes; the other browsers require more explicit updates.
That doesn't mean that IE9 users will be totally prevented from using Google Apps. However, certain key features won't work.
Why the change?
Microsoft pushed IE11 live with the release of Windows 8.1, and that started Google's clock, the company said. Over the next few weeks, users are going to slowly discover that they need to upgrade.
"End users who access Gmail and other Google Apps services from an unsupported browser will be notified within the next few weeks through an in-product notification message or an interstitial pages with information about modern browsers and how to upgrade to them," Google said.
A Google support page provides more detail:
Google Apps users with unsupported browsers may find that some features do not function, or the application doesn't load. For example:
- Calendar: Calendars display in read-only mode.
- Gmail: Gmail users are redirected to the basic HTML interface of Gmail.
- Drive: Drawings and presentations don't display properly.
Although Microsoft has put most of its emphasis on shifting users away from Windows XP over security concerns, Windows Vista isn't exactly the platform that users should be residing on. On Tuesday, Microsoft published details of a significant vulnerability that allows attackers to take over a Vista machine--and that doesn't even take into account the thousands of complaints users had over its design, stability, or frequent and annoying pop-up messages.
Last year, Google said that more than five million businesses have "gone Google". Google hasn't said how many users that entails (although over 425 million users use Gmail, so it's less than that).
A Wired study also reveals that most Google Apps users derive from a small number of domains, implying that major companies lead the charge. It's hard to believe that those corporations are stuck on Vista.
Nevertheless, if you or your business is one of the few still running a hybrid Vista/Google Apps environment, you need to prepare for change, pronto.