Virtualizing IE6? Think again

Internet Explorer 6 remains a high-need application for many organizations that developed web-based applications based on that platform. Since then, newer versions of Internet Explorer have broken compatibility with these applications. In order to be able to continue forging ahead – that is, not having to sit on an older version of IE and Windows – some organizations have turned to virtualization options to fill the IE6 void. Specifically, they’ve employed application virtualization techniques such as VMware’s ThinApp to continue to make IE6 available while still retaining the ability to move the rest of the organization forward. In these instances, those same organizations can virtualize IE6 and still move forward with deployments of new operating systems and can even run IE6 alongside newer versions of Internet Explorer. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?

It is a win-win, except for one small fact: According to Microsoft, using application virtualization tools to virtualize IE6 violates Microsoft’s end user license agreement (EULA).

In fact, Microsoft has taken an active effort to remind companies of this fact by, in some cases, sending them letters to let them know that virtualizing IE6 by itself is not allowed. One line reads “Microsoft supports and licenses IE6 only for use as part of the Windows operating system, not as a standalone

What are the options for organizations in a conundrum?

  • Organizations need to make the decision between staying on Windows XP with IE6 or moving to Windows 7 with Windows XP Mode. However, Windows XP Mode can be overkill for companies that just need IE.
  • For companies that decide to recode older applications – which is the better long-term strategy anyway – do they continue in an IE-only mode and risk a similar situation down the line?
  • Do organizations assume legal liability and just virtualize IE6 anyway? Some companies are already doing this.

Personally, I don’t think Microsoft’s stance makes a lot of sense. It seems like the company is actively upsetting customers and forcing those customers into making decisions that they may not want to make. In hard economic times – particularly when there is a growing number of options – this just doesn’t seem like good business. I don’t believe that Microsoft should bend over backward and go to unreasonable levels to support everything under the sun, but I do believe that they need to provide sound technical justification for their decisions in order to keep customers on board.

What are your thoughts? Has your company been caught in this trap?

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