The coming "Metro" version of Windows 8 destined for deployment on smartphones and media tablets will ship with a version of Internet Explorer 10 that will no longer feature browser plug-ins, Microsoft says.
The decision means Adobe Systems' Flash Player plug-in -- as well as Microsoft's own Silverlight offering -- will no longer be directly supported by the software giant's Metro style IE10 release for Windows 8.
For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro-style browser in Windows 8 will be as HTML5-only as possible, said Dean Hachamovitch, the head of Microsoft's Windows Internet Explorer team.
"The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web," Hachamovitch wrote in a blog.
Running a plug-in-free Metro version of IE10 is expected to improve mobile-device battery life as well as security, reliability and privacy for consumers.
"Microsoft seems to have taken a similar approach to Apple in terms of the purity of the browsing experience and the focus on web standards like HTML5 and CSS3," said Al Hilwa, director of applications development software at IDC.
IE10 for Desktops
On the other hand, Hachamovitch said Microsoft also would be providing a desktop PC version of IE10 that would continue to offer plug-in support. So desktop apps on new Windows 8 devices will continue to be an option for developers targeting the traditional mouse interface, Hilwa said.
"This may be suitable for apps requiring pointing precision like CAD or pixel manipulation and also extends an evolutionary path to existing desktop apps," Hilwa said. "One of the most important desktop apps is a version of IE10 that does allow plug-ins that Microsoft will supply."
Hilwa also believes it is more accurate to say plug-ins will be supported on Windows 8.
"Though as more and more [independent software vendors] port their apps to touch, and more and more websites target HTML5, the hypothesis that we will see less plug-ins will very likely pan out," Hilwa said.
Adobe already offers developers the requisite tools for working around Apple's Flash plug-in ban for mobile devices running iOS. Though Flash does not run on Apple's iOS browser itself, Flash developers have actually been catering to iOS for some time through the AIR runtime, Hilwa said.
Moreover, Microsoft itself has minimized its investment in Silverlight as a desktop browser plug-in, though the software giant continues to support it.
"It is important to note that the technologies that have been associated with Silverlight -- such as C# and XAML -- continue to be supported as first-class citizens in Windows 8, so developers can leverage their investment in the languages," Hilwa said.
Hachamovitch observed that many websites already have been engineered for a plug-in free experience. "Google, for example, recently launched their HTML5 YouTube site for phones," Hachamovitch wrote.
Moreover, Hachamovitch said, a number of websites that use Adobe Flash already fall back to HTML5 video in the absence of plug-in support.
"When serving ads in the absence of plug-ins, most sites already perform the equivalent of this fallback, showing that this approach is practical and scalable," Hachamovitch said.
On Windows 8, consumer sites and 'line of business' apps that require legacy ActiveX controls will continue to run in the desktop browser. Moreover, consumers will be able to "tap 'Use Desktop View' in Metro style IE for these sites," Hachamovitch said.