November 12, 2010, 4:38 PM — You want to deploy Windows 7 but you can't let go of Internet Explorer 6. Unfortunately, that's no longer feasible: IE compatibility problems need to be solved fast to prevent Windows 7 delays, according to recent report from Gartner.
The main problem here is that many companies and ISVs coded their Web applications for IE6, which is a non- standard browser. Thus, many apps custom built for IE6 will not run on the more Web standards-friendly Firefox and Chrome browsers as well as IE8, the browser that comes loaded on Windows 7. Organizations running IE6 surveyed by Gartner reveal that 40% of their custom-built Web applications will not run on IE8.
Despite warnings, companies are clinging to IE6 for a variety of reasons, states the Gartner report, including: the desire to minimize costs in a sour economy; ISV requirements that apps be IE6 specific; limited migrations to Windows Vista, which would have required a move to IE7.
In short, organizations did not factor the time-consuming task of inventorying and fixing IE6 applications into their Windows 7 migration plans. Gartner estimates that through 2014, when all support for Windows XP ends, IE8 compatibility problems will cause 20% of organizations to run overtime or overbudget on Windows 7 migrations.
So companies face a choice: Either spend time and money to upgrade IE6 applications so that they work in newer browsers, or keep running Windows XP.
[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system -- including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts -- see CIO.com's Windows 7 Bible. ]
Here is where Microsoft needs to step in and offer support, writes report author and Gartner analyst Michael Silver.
"It appears that Microsoft is attempting to distance itself from IE6, reversing its stance of 2001 to 2006, when it encouraged development of IE6-specific applications," writes Silver in his research note. "Microsoft must do more to help organizations with their IE6 problems that Microsoft helped cause."
So what can businesses do to break free from IE6?
There are several ways to support IE6 apps during a Windows 7 migration -- some are temporary and some permanent, most involve virtualization, and none are perfect.
Here are four ways to resolve the IE6/Windows 7 dilemma, according to Gartner.
1. Simply Fix the IE6 Applications: But It's Complicated
Fixing IE6 applications so that they are compatible with IE8 will solve the problem once and for all. But this is the most difficult solution, writes Gartner. If you have the time and money to make every app IE8 compatible, then this is the best route, but most companies do not.