IE10 on Windows 8: Even Microsoft can't make it work

Windows 8 and its two-faced version of Internet Explorer will bring all sorts of problems, as altercation with a Metro app vividly demonstrates

If your company has an outward-facing website, you're probably braced for the enormous changes that will come when Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8 hit in a few months. But if Microsoft's own sites are any indication, you might find yourself reduced to curling up in a fetal position -- or looking for a new job.

An example: Over the weekend I was searching to see if Microsoft had changed anything about its Metro Windows 8 apps, pursuant to the extensive changes -- er, exciting new services announced at E3 last week. If you follow Windows 8 developments, you probably know that Microsoft has killed Zune and promises to make media much more accessible, united under the name Xbox Music.

So I went spelunking through the Windows 8 RP Metro Music app, to see what has changed. Lo and behold, the third tile visible in the app, even before "New Releases," says "Xbox Music/Learn More." I tapped on the tile.

Windows 8 brought up the Metro version of IE10 and took me to the Xbox Live music site. So far, so good. At the top of that Web page is a big embedded video titled "Introducing Xbox Music." I tapped on it to see what's new.

Oops. The video requires Silverlight. Quaint. There's a small message that says, "Install Microsoft Silverlight." Of course, you and I know that Silverlight, being an add-in, doesn't run in the Metro version of IE10. In other words, the Metro Music tile took me directly to something that I couldn't possible see. But never mind. I tapped to install Silverlight. Metro IE10 asked me if I wanted to run the Silverlight installer. I tapped "Run."

Metro IE10 flipped me onto the old-fashioned desktop, which is all it can do -- installing apps outside the App Store can only happen on the desktop. Fair enough. UAC prompted me about running the Silverlight Installer. In for a penny, in for a pound, I tapped "Yes." The Silverlight installer kicked in. I tapped "Install Now." The Silverlight installer finished, prompting me to enable Microsoft update. Sure, I checked the box and tapped "Next."

The Silverlight installer finished, leaving me on the old-fashioned Windows desktop with a dialog box that said, "You may have to refresh (F5) the web page for these changes to take effect." OK. I tapped "Close" -- and nothing happened. I was staring at the desktop, nothing running, the tulip field background being the only thing in sight, no indication of what I should do next, except for the admonishment that I might need to press F5.

Alrightee then. I pushed the Windows button on the tablet, to go back to the Metro Start screen. I tapped the "Metro Music" tile again. Inside, I tapped the "Xbox Music/Learn More" tile again.

Metro IE10 came up at the Xbox Live music site again. But this time, there was a big black warning in the middle of the screen with the admonishment, "CAN'T PLAY / There was a problem playing this video. Try again later." Oy. Of course the site can't play the Silverlight video -- it's running on Metro IE10. "Try again later?" Puh-lease.

I decided to flip myself over to the desktop version of IE10. I swiped on the bottom of the screen, tapped the wrench icon, and chose "View on the Desktop."

That flipped me back to the desktop version of IE10, and I was back to the same page with a big embedded "Introducing Xbox Music" video, this time inside desktop IE10, with Silverlight installed.

Ah good. Finally, I was ready to watch the video. I tapped on the screen to play ... and nothing happened. Big black square. Hmmm. Guess I better hit F5, right? So I brought up the Metro touch keyboard ... and there's no F5. Not anywhere.

Google is my friend, and I finally discovered that there is a Windows 8 touch keyboard with F keys available, but at least in RP it isn't enabled. To make a very long and frustrating story short, I swiped from the right, tapped the Settings charm, tapped Change PC Settings, on the left I tapped General, on the right I scrolled down to Make the Standard Keyboard Layout Available, and slid it from Off to On. Then I pushed the Windows button on the tablet, got back to the Metro Start screen, tapped the tile for the Desktop, flopped back into Desktop IE10, tapped the touch keyboard icon in the taskbar, tapped to change keyboard styles and picked the "Classic" big style. Then I tapped Fn, tapped 5, tapped to move the touch keyboard out of the way, and then ... the video played.

That's how hard it was to play the video linked directly from the "Xbox Music/Learn More" third tile of the Metro Music app. I wonder how long it would take me to explain that sequence to my dad.

Text below the video says, "Music is more amazing with Xbox."

Yep, I suppose it is. And life is certainly more, uh, interesting with Windows 8.

This story, "Internet Explorer 10: Even Microsoft can't make it work," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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