Microsoft starts serving IE8 upgrade to enterprises

Makes good on promise, pushes new browser to businesses via WSUS

As promised more than a month ago, Microsoft began pushing Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) to enterprises yesterday via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

The IE8 upgrade for Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 was cast as an "Update rollup" to WSUS, Microsoft's most popular tool for deploying patches within businesses.

Microsoft noted that even if administrators had set WSUS to auto-approve rollup packages, the new browser won't automatically be sent to client PCs that connect to the update server.

"Even if Auto-Approve for the 'Update Rollup' category is on, Internet Explorer 8 will not automatically be deployed," said Eric Hebenstreit, a lead program manager on the IE team, in a post to the IE blog.

"You must approve the Internet Explorer 8 EULA before Internet Explorer 8 is deployed to your downstream clients."

Hebenstreit included a pair of screenshots in the blog post to illustrate what administrators would see in the WSUS console.

All supported languages of IE8 for Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 were pushed to WSUS yesterday, but just 24 were fed to administrators for Windows XP. The remaining 34 will hit update servers on Sept. 22.

Microsoft released IE8 in March , but waited a month before pushing the new browser to end-users via Windows Update (WU), the primary update service for consumers and smaller businesses.

Before that, it had released a toolkit to block the new browser from reaching machines through WU; the toolkit, however, does not block IE8 upgrades pushed by WSUS or Systems Management Server (SMS), another Microsoft patch manager.

According to Web measurement company Net Applications, most of IE8's gains in market share have come at the expense of IE7 , not the even older IE6, a browser that debuted in 2001 alongside Windows XP.

In July, Net Applications estimated IE8's share of the global browser market as 12.5 per cent, an increase of nearly nine percentage points in the previous 90 days. IE7, meanwhile, accounted for 23.1 per cent of all browsers, while IE6 held down a 27.2 per cent share.

Microsoft has acknowledged the resistance it faces in convincing companies to upgrade from older editions to IE8.

"With our business customers, it's more complex," said Amy Bazdukas, Microsoft's general manager for IE, in an interview last week. "For them, deploying a browser is very like much like deploying an operating system across multiple desktops. So it's not a surprise that IE6 is still being [widely] used."

Several prominent sites, including Facebook, Google's YouTube and Digg, have either urged their customers to upgrade or said they would stop supporting the aged browser.

Grassroots campaigns, including an "IE6 Must Die" petition on Twitter that's collected more than 13,000 signatures, and one launched earlier this month by a California site builder, have added to the chorus.

"Friends don't let friends use IE6," said Bazdukas.

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