Well, the title is a tad bit hyperbolic, but here are two ways that I think Microsoft could easily garner some really good will, and perhaps generate some true love for it again.
If done, either of these would make Internet Explorer the darling of web developers and designers out there.
The first way is probably unlikely, but I would give another toe to see it happen:
1. Swap the rendering engine with Gecko
Long term, this makes the most sense for Microsoft. They could very seriously profit from the open source communities hard work if they would drop the Trident rendering engine currently in IE. Yes it would cause unholy hell for numerous websites, BUT it needs to be done.
Why would MS do this if IE just becomes synonymous with Firefox? Because Microsoft understands the platform better than anyone. They could create extensions and hooks from the app itself that would be incredibly powerful. They could build the browser on the same foundation, but the unique features and user experience it offers, not to mention the fact that it would come bundled with every computer an edge.
Trust me, Trident is not what’s keeping people hooked on IE.
But by doing this, they would save countless, unpaid man hours that web devs waste now trying to get things to work across all browsers. No offense to the webkit and Opera folks, but in all honesty, those systems aren’t going to explode off the charts any time soon.
Heck, make it to where if the document is in Quirks mode, it uses Trident, if it’s in standards mode, it uses Gecko. I’m sure I am terribly naive about the effort on Redmond’s part, but if hubris is the only thing keeping them stuck to Trident, I say drop it. Serve the users, not the ego.
2. Support multiple backgrounds on an element
If they don’t drop Trident, which I very highly doubt they will, they could add one feature, one small CSS addition that will make people love them.
Let developers add more than one background to an element.
This feature alone will make the world of web devs rejoice. By proactively going after this functionality, MS will definitely benefit.
All IE has to do is support it. I could deal with the operation aborted errors, the stupid random bugs, if I don’t have to add in 15 pounds of code just to have a semantic and easily styled box.
Just a thought.