It appears that Microsoft is as happy as anyone to see the death of IE6.

At the browser’s “funeral” held yesterday by a web design company in Denver, organisers received a bouquet of flowers from the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft. The flowers were accompanied by a letter of condolence, saying “Thanks for the good times, IE6. See you all @ MIX, where we’ll show a little piece of IE heaven. Internet Explorer Team at Microsoft.”

It’s nice to see Microsoft has a sense of humour about the funeral, but it also reveals that Microsoft is about as sick of IE6 as web designers are.

It’s not hard to see why. Although IE6 is still their product, it’s positively archaic compared to the browsers that the IE team have released in the past couple of years. While IE7 and IE8 aren’t the best browsers on the market, they’re at least able to render unicode without crashing. IE8 in particular (especially when paired with Google Frame) is a legitimate competitor to Safari 4, Firefox 3.6 and Chrome.

Despite their hard work, neither browser has a commanding lead over IE6 in market share. IE7 and IE8 each have between 20% and 25% market share, the same amount as IE6 does.

The IE team’s note does reveal an interesting bit of information. They talk about revealing a “little piece of IE heaven at MIX” which suggests that they’re going to be showing off IE9 at the conference, which is less than a week away.

The IE team is no doubt tired of patching up the broken old machine that is IE6 at the expense of focusing on IE7, IE8 and IE9, but they have no choice in the short term. Even though Google no longer supports the browser, there are still too many business systems based off of IE6 for the browser to die right away. Indeed, Microsoft has said they plan to support the browser until at least the planned 2014 end of support for XP SP3. Here’s hoping that day comes quickly.

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