Ina Fried

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Windows 8’s New-Style Browser Doesn’t Run Flash

While the new-style Internet Explorer in Windows 8 is in most respects similar to the desktop version that is also part of the new operating system, there is a key difference.

The touch-friendly version doesn’t work with plugins or extensions, meaning it can’t run Adobe Flash.

It’s an interesting choice. On one hand, Microsoft clearly sees the same things other folks do when it comes to the buggy nature of plugins and the rise of HTML5. Still, it eliminates what could have been a key advantage of Windows 8 over the iPad — that is, a touch-friendly browser that can run Flash. Plus, it adds another hurdle to Microsoft’s effort to bill the new operating system as without compromise.

To be clear, Windows 8 — even Windows 8 tablets — can still run Flash by using the desktop version of Internet Explorer (or other browsers, for that matter). However, the desktop applications lack the clean user interface that makes Windows 8 attractive on a touch-only slate.

Microsoft justifies the move by noting that even among sites that use Flash, many offer HTML5 video options in the absence of the Adobe plugin.

“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 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free,” IE head Dean Hachamovitch said in a blog post on Thursday. “The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web.”

Update, 12:50 p.m. PT: The announcement raised a few questions for us here at AllThingsD, so we got a few more details. First of all, Microsoft is playing fair with its ban on plug-ins in the Metro version of IE — even its own Silverlight won’t run in the touch-first version of the browser. (That explains why we couldn’t stream the keynote on Thursday on the test device without switching to the desktop.)

Secondly, Microsoft clarified that both the Metro and desktop versions of IE will be in the Windows-on-ARM version of the browser, so plug-ins can be added on ARM-based machines. Whether the plug-in you want will be available or perform well is another question.

Also, while the Metro browser in the developer preview version doesn’t automatically switch to the desktop version when a plug-in is needed, there is a “switch to desktop” option within the touch-browser.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google