Migrating from IE6 to IE8 is not easy because of legacy web-enabled applications that don’t render correctly on IE8 and vendors that are slow to officially support it. There are a variety of ways to virtualize IE6 to help with this issue, including using application virtualization tools. I originally wrote about the potential issues using application virtualization with IE6 in this post. In this blog post I stated:
There’s also the legal implications of virtualizing IE. Since Microsoft treats IE as part of the OS, encapsulating IE into a container means you are encapsulating part of Windows into the container. That’s why the application virtualization providers won’t provide you a virtualized version of IE themselves. They’ll tell you how to do it, but won’t provide the bits themselves. That’s shifts the legal responsibility to you. It’s a fuzzy area and I’m not a lawyer, so this is at least something that needs to be considered. Do I believe Microsoft would have an issue with one of its customers virtualzing IE? I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean they officially support or endorse this approach either.
Apparently, Microsoft is now explicitly telling some customers that, indeed, using application virtualization to virtualize IE6 violates the end user license agreement of Windows, even if they do it themselves. Here’s an excerpt from a letter that Microsoft sent to some of its customers:
Microsoft does not support the use of Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) or similar third-party application virtualization products to virtualize IE6 as an “application” enabling multiple versions of Internet Explorer on a single operating system. These unsupported approaches may potentially stop working when customers patch or update the underlying operating system, introducing technical incompatibilities and business continuity issues. In addition, the terms under which Windows and IE6 are licensed do not permit IE6 “application” virtualization. Microsoft supports and licenses IE6 only for use as part of the Windows operating system, not as a standalone application.
Microsoft supports IE6 being virtualized, but only using terminal services, VDI/HDV or running XP in a VM locally. Running essentially a full copy of XP just to get an IE6 browser is overkill for most customers and increases the cost and complexity of their migration. And, as I pointed out in the previous post, application virtualization solution vendors already tell their customers how to virtualize IE — Symantec tells its customers how to do this here and VMware tells its ThinApp customers how to do this here. Technically, it can and is being done.
I think Microsoft is making a huge mistake in not allowing its customers to use application virtualization technologies to virtualize IE. The customer wants to move to IE8, Microsoft wants them to move to IE8. It’s a better and more secure browser. Everyone is better for it.
However, by sending messages like the one above and taking a strong stance against the application virtualization of IE6, Microsoft risks upsetting its customers and pushing them to consider alternative browsers which aren’t tied inexorably to the OS underneath and which can be virtualized using application virtualization so they don’t run into this problem during their next migration.
Microsoft, please allow your customers to virtualize IE6 using application virtualization technologies if they choose to do so and accept the possible technical risk. Better yet, design IE9 and future releases so it can be virtualized using application virtualization technologies if and when a customer wants to do this.
If you’ve been impacted by Microsoft’s stance, I’d be interested in hearing from you. Here’s a strategy to consider moving forward – don’t standardize on a single browser. We outline this strategy in detail in this research for clients.