I can’t decide whether I’m surprised or not: Microsoft has announced that Metro, their front-end for the upcoming Windows 8, will not support plug-ins for Internet Explorer. The announcement appears to echo Apple’s lead where Flash is concerned, as Apple doesn’t allow Flash to run on iOS devices. Adobe’s Flash technology, the prime duty of which is to serve rich multimedia over the web, has been criticized in recent years for being buggy, system-heavy, insecure and proprietary. Instead, many modern-day developers and designers advocate the still-growing HTML5 as a potential replacement. With Flash not running on Apple or Microsoft mobile operating systems, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if this will be the end of Flash on the web in general.
Here’s a blurb from AppleInsider about Microsoft’s decision:[quote]IE team lead Dean Hachamovitch wrote in the post that going plug-in free in for the Metro version of IE10 “improves battery life as well as security, reliability and privacy for consumers… Plug-ins were important early on in the web’s history. But the web has come a long way since then with HTML5. Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI,” he noted.[/quote]
It’s important to note that Metro is not, in and of itself, Windows 8. Metro is the touch-layer interface Microsoft has created specifically for touch devices like phones and tablets. Metro will function on these tablets without a full install of Windows 8 underneath the hood and will run IE within the Metro environment. The desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 will still support plug-ins, including Flash.
I’ve always felt that if a Mac journalist can’t say something good about a non-Apple technology when he sees it (or something bad about an Apple technology, if necessary) then he undermines his own credibility when he criticizes Apple’s competition (or applauds Apple’s victories). In the interest of protecting my own reputation, Microsoft has been making curious and unusual moves lately that have been impressing me. Not all of them, of course (most of the goofy ones being traceable right back to Steve Ballmer), but Metro has caught my attention as being a genuinely innovative approach to the computing interface. I’m not sure I agree that what they’re proposing is viable, i.e. one operating system for all devices or, as John Gruber of Daring Fireball describes it, a “boil the ocean” approach. What I do like is that, unlike HP and Google and RIM, they didn’t just take the iOS graphical interface, tweak a few meaningless visual details, and say “Here! Totally innovative!” They really went in a new direction this time. Even more to their credit, having the balls to say “No Flash” shows that they’re setting themselves apart from the competition. Where the aforementioned companies think of Flash as a checkbox feature they can include — no matter what the cost is to the user experience — and get a leg up on Apple, Microsoft said “No, it doesn’t work right. We’re not using it.” That’s big stuff. Gives me a little hope that we might see more surprises from them in the next year or two.