ORLANDO -- The new version of Microsoft's Edge browser will feature security and productivity improvements.
The latest browser is built on the Google Chromium engine and comes with a variety of new features, which were announced here at Ignite, Microsoft's annual user conference. Enterprise customers can use an Internet Explorer mode to more easily navigate between internal and external sites.
"If organizations use a Microsoft device, a Microsoft operating system and Microsoft browser, then Microsoft is going to be able to deliver a better experience," said Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.
Competing with Chrome
In December 2018, Microsoft announced that it would develop the next Edge browser using the Chromium open source project. The company released a beta version of the browser in August. The updates are coming Jan. 15, 2020 for macOS, iOS, Android OS, Windows 7 and Windows 10.
"There's no question that Microsoft saw businesses switch to Chrome as their primary browser … because at the end of the day, it was more secure," Bowker said. "The fact that [Microsoft] is using Chromium just shows that that kind of foundation for the browser is what businesses want."
Microsoft's embrace of Chromium technology to provide a similarly secure and high-performing browser is a good sign, said the director of technology at a professional services organization, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons.
"I think folks typically prefer Chrome," he said. "Now Edge is competitive to Chrome."
Microsoft's Edge browser offers a variety of security and privacy features. A new InPrivate mode enables users to privately search without being tracked. SmartScreen and Tracking prevention helps to protect organizations from phishing and malware. The new Microsoft Edge also comes with preconfigured security and compliance settings to help IT more easily implement policies.
With previous versions of Microsoft's Edge browser, many organizations experienced compatibility issues for certain websites and web applications, Bowker said.
To combat this issue, Microsoft also announced its App Assure program at Ignite, which will extend to Edge users in early 2020, according to the company. If a website works with older versions of Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11 or Google Chrome, but it is not compatible with the new version of Edge, then organizations can call Microsoft support to fix the issue at no additional cost.
Community Health Network, a healthcare organization in Indianapolis, would be a good candidate for the App Assure program, said Josh Kinsler, director of cybersecurity at the company.
Willem BagchusMessaging and collaboration specialist, United Bank
"Since we're a hospital organization, we have a lot of applications that don't work in modern browsers," he said.
The Internet Explorer mode will be an exciting feature for many organizations, said Willem Bagchus, messaging and collaboration specialist at United Bank, based in Parkersburg, W.Va.
"Right now, most people have more than one browser on their desktops, and some older legacy services still require Internet Explorer," he said. "It's a management nightmare to figure out who has what browsers."
New Microsoft Edge browser features
The new Microsoft Edge browser will track users' history, passwords, favorites and settings across Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. This will make management easier for IT, said Will Wilson, an IT administrator at the City of Happy Valley in Washington.
"Chrome wasn't managed by us directly through any of our Office 365 applications," he said. "I can't count the number of times that we roll out new computers and people forget to back up their favorites or whatever it may be, and we have to work to get those back."
Also new is the ability to use natural language search called Microsoft Search in Bing, which is built into the new Edge browser, that can bring up both internal company information and external information. End users can use the Bing search bar to find information such as co-workers, floor plans and definitions for company-related acronyms.
"People are used to searching for things in Google in a similar fashion," said the director of technology. "Providing that capability is a useful one."
Still, some organizations expect pushback from end users when it comes to adoption of the new Edge browser.
"Edge and Internet Explorer have gained a negative connotation in the last few years," said the director of technology. "[IT] will need to convince people that this new version is better."
Chrome is the standard browser for many organizations today, said Ryan Birch, systems analyst at Stratiform, a managed services consultancy in Alberta, Canada.
Birch used the beta version of the new Edge browser, however, and was surprised at the speed and lack of bugs, he said.
"The hesitance to switch might be a force of habit," he added.