Richard MacManus has a meta-review of the initial reaction to IE7, in which he cites early buzz that “IE7 will kill a lot of independent RSS Aggregator products, due to IE7’s impressive RSS integration features.”
Of course it will. IE7 features are hardly “impressive” but they are certainly integrated, which will be enough for many people to switch from independent aggregators, so they only have to use one application. If RSS aggregators are vulnerable to Microsoft, it’s because they are lacking in any true innovation.
I think that much of the debate about the merits of IE7's RSS features miss an important point, that it's not targeted at you and me.
An issue I faced immediately when I started developing SAP's social media strategy is that an RSS client is not part of our standard desktop software image. I could go out and buy a site license for a separate product, in which case I would then have to deal with a global IT rollout, integrate it into our support call center processes, train people, and on and on and on. Believe me when I say that even in technology companies the great majority of users are non-tech users.
IE7 provides me with the hope that I don't have to do any of the above, but rather Microsoft will do it for me. In addition to streamlining the interface, which many would call "dumbed down", Microsoft has actually done something very smart, make it accessible. People are always criticizing MSoft products for being having too many options, being too complex, or having a crappy UI... and then praising Apple in the same breath when their software UI isn't any better. With IE7 they have rethought the user interface in the browser and IMO done a pretty commendable job. Let's also keep some perspective on this product, it's a beta release and that means a lot can still change.
Another assumption that Microsoft seems to be building this product on is that their target user won't have a lot of feeds, I don't know but maybe no more than 30? This is not a surprising conclusion to come to and if true it will be sobering to the RSS digerati, but think about it for a second, has RSS really done anything more than just aggregate content in one place? No, and as a result it still doesn't accomplish the bigger goal of enabling people to be vastly more productive with a wider range of information assets.
That last point above is also critical in this debate. The world really doesn't need another RSS reader, we need better RSS clients. What Microsoft is doing with IE7 is to provide core functional components for basic RSS functionality, which ISV's could then use to build their own applications on top of. If you want to build a better RSS client in IE7, then go for it because it would appear that Microsoft is giving you the tools and the platform to do just that.
Many of you will say "I don't want to build anything in IE7" and that's your perogative, but it's also incredibly short-sighted. SAP is not unlike a great majority of enterprise customers, we aren't supporting Firefox (much to my disappointment) in our standard desktop image, and we are not likely to invest time and resources in rolling out an entirely new product for RSS to 35,000+ computers if we are getting basic functionality that satisfies the great majority of our worldwide users as an upgrade to IE, which we'll do anyways.
If you are developing RSS tools and want to target either the mass market or the enterprise market, then you should have an IE7 strategy on deck. As for me, I'm still using Performancing in Firefox to post and FeedDemon as my RSS client, but I don't think anyone in Redmond will be disappointed because I was never their target audience to begin with.