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Rivals level guns at IE in enterprise browser war

Elizabeth Montalbano | June 12, 2009
While Microsoft's browser is the standard with enterprise customers, Mozilla and Google are readying tools to compete

"A lot of corporate Web applications were built to display best or display online in IE6, and to rewrite those applications is more hassle than it's worth," he said.

McLeish said that as companies think about migrating those older applications and their mandated browser from IE6, they might choose a competitive browser instead of upgrading to a newer version of IE. "I think we're going to see more and more people on IE6 figure out where they go and if an alternative can match [their needs]," she said.

Mozilla in particular is being aggressive with these companies, McLeish said.

In an interview this week, Mike Beltzner, a director of Firefox at Mozilla, said that along with the release of Firefox 3.5, due at the end of the month, Mozilla will offer tools for Web developers who want to recreate corporate applications using standards common to the modern Web -- standards that Microsoft only began supporting in earnest with IE7.

However, Mozilla still does not offer group policy for Firefox, analysts said. It also does not offer installation software to help administrators put Firefox on multiple desktops at the same time, though a forthcoming customization program planned for Firefox 3.5 will include that feature, Beltzner said.

Through the program, called Build Your Own Browser, companies will be able to use a Web application provided by Mozilla to specify certain browser customizations -- such as bookmarks to corporate intranets or portals. Companies will also be able to add their brands to the browser through technology called Personas, which allows them to create a "skin" with their logo.

Once the custom browser is created, the Web application then will send it to the company along with a program for installing it across corporate desktops, Beltzner said.

Firefox also has a leg up on IE in corporations that have standardized on Apple computers, including many creative agencies and publishing houses, Rosoff said. "In a lot of cases they mandate Firefox use because it's cross-platform and [sites] render almost identically on PCs or Macs," he said.

Google's Chrome browser is another option for corporate users, although it is a relative newcomer even to consumers, having been released only late last year.

Still, Chrome has a lot of mind share due to the power of the company behind it, and Google, which has its eye on the enterprise for its Web-based applications, is keeping corporate users in mind with Chrome as well.

Google added group policy controls to its Google Update technology, which updates its applications -- including Chrome -- to allow companies to control policy via Windows Group Policy, according to a Google blog. This allows network administrators to apply policies to Chrome across all computers on a particular domain, and also gives users with administrative privileges the right to set the policy on individual machines.

 

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