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How to handle Windows 10 browser compatibility issues

IT often runs into problems with legacy apps not functioning well on new browser versions. There are a few ways to combat Windows 10 browser compatibility issues in Internet Explorer 11.

BOSTON -- Internet Explorer compatibility can be a problem when delivering web-based enterprise applications, and it's only going to get worse with Windows 10.

The default in Windows 10 is the new Edge browser, but the operating system also includes Internet Explorer (IE) 11. Many businesses still rely on IE to host web apps, and since Microsoft ended support for versions 8, 9 and 10 in January, IT pros should understand how to properly support all their applications on IE11.

Shawn Bass, CTO of end-user computing at VMware, discussed these issues in a session here at BriForum 2016. He shared a few ways to address Windows 10 browser compatibility for apps that don't function well on IE11.

Remote Desktop Session Host

With Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services platform, IT shops can run older versions of Internet Explorer that may better support apps that don't work on IE11. Versions 7, 8 and 9 can run on Windows Server 2008; versions 8, 9 and 10 can run on Server 2008 R2; and IE10 can run on Server 2010.

This process essentially virtualizes the browser, and it does not consume too many resources directly on the endpoint, Bass said. But because of latency and bandwidth usage, running incompatible apps with session-based virtualization can degrade the user experience, he said.

Internet Explorer Compatibility View and Enterprise Mode

These built-in browser compatibility features allow IT to make legacy apps behave properly on more modern versions of IE. They work by emulating the format of older Microsoft IE browser versions, so they're best for static websites, not something more advanced such as an enterprise resource planning web app, Bass said.

Compatibility View renders websites in pre-IE8 mode, even though the OS is running a newer version of the browser. That's useful for customers moving from earlier versions to new versions of IE, including IE11 in Windows 10. But this feature is not webpage specific, which means IT has to assign the mode to a whole domain, Bass said.

Enterprise Mode, which is new in IE11, can solve Windows 10 browser compatibility issues by rendering whichever URLs IT chooses in IE7 or IE8 format. It does not support versions 9 or 10.

Add-on tools

Application virtualization products from Citrix, VMware, Spoon, Symantec and Microsoft itself can help IT abstract applications from the OS and deliver them through any supported browser.

But plenty of organizations allow employees to use multiple browsers, and not all app virtualization tools support all browsers and OSes. So, other options are Browsium's Ion and Catalyst tools, which allow IT to select which applications open in which browsers -- and work on both mobile and desktop versions of all browsers on all OSes.

Edge out other browsers?

IT shops that use all modern apps -- and therefore don't have to deal with Windows 10 browser compatibility problems -- might want to try Edge. It supports modern standards such as Web 2.0 and HTML5, allows for longer battery life on endpoints, reduces power consumption and offers higher quality video streaming than all other browsers, Bass said. But it doesn't work on Linux, Apple's Mac OS X or iOS, or Google Android. It's not even available on Windows 7, which many organizations still support.

"This is the single biggest mistake Microsoft has made with Edge," Bass said. "Microsoft is going to lose out big time by not having Edge on Windows 7."

Today, 30% of internet browsing is on mobile devices, and in some countries it is more than 50%, Bass said. But as desktop browsing becomes less popular, Microsoft lags behind because it doesn't have a big enough footprint with Windows 10 Mobile, he said. More mobile-ready browsers such as Google Chrome, which runs on all major OSes, and Apple's Safari, which runs on iOS and OS X, will come out on top.

"[Microsoft is] going to lose the Windows 10 browsing war," he added. "Chrome will benefit from [increased mobile browsing]. Safari will benefit from that. But Microsoft will not benefit because they don't really have a mobile browser."

Next Steps

Explore IE 11 security

What are the concerns about Windows 10 app compatibility?

Improve IE 11 security with Group Policy settings

Dig Deeper on Application management

Virtual Desktop