Microsoft pushes Edge as 'best for business' in battle with Chrome

At this year's Ignite conference, Microsoft offered up a host of reasons why its browser is better for the enterprise than Google Chrome. Do those claims stack up?

new microsoft edge logo

Microsoft last week pitched Edge as "the browser for business," as in fact, "the best browser for business," and revealed some of the new features and functionality it will use to convince customers that its aspirations are more than posturing.

Edge, which Microsoft relaunched in January after tearing it down to the studs and rebuilding it with the same code from the Chromium project that powers Google's Chrome, has managed to scratch its way into second place on the world's browser standings. At the end of August, approximately 8.5% of all browser activity was attributed to Edge. That was a mere 1.5 percentage points higher than at the January restart, equivalent to about two-tenths of a point per month.

While that pace might be enough to put Edge at 11% by year's end, it wouldn't be enough to replace Chrome before around 2034.

But because Edge is Chrome, more or less, the business angle is not just Microsoft's best bet to push its browser but really its only bet. To justify the cost – in money, personnel and other resources – in switching browsers, enterprises must have substantial grounds for doing so.

How do the features Microsoft offered during its Ignite conference last week stack up? Computerworld took a spin through what Microsoft touted.

Linux in October

A Linux edition of Edge will be available next month, according to Microsoft.

The firm did not say when in October, but whenever it's released, the browser will be available from the Insiders website, initially only in a Dev channel version.

Chrome has long been available in a Linux edition. Enterprise IT admins can start here.

Internet Explorer lives!

Enterprises will be able to soon manage the underlying Enterprise Mode Support list from the cloud, rather than from a locally-stored XML file, Microsoft said.

Enterprise Mode Support and its list are the heart of Internet Explorer (IE) mode in Edge. That list determines which websites and web apps are to open in the aged browser rather than Edge.

With cloud management, the list will be placed in a Microsoft-managed, GDPR-compliant cloud location, according to Shilpa Subramanian, a senior program manager. The list will be managed, Subramanian added, from the Microsoft 365 admin center.

Chrome also has an IE mode, dubbed Legacy Browser Support, or LBS. Recently, Google eliminated the LBS browser add-on, as it had rolled the functionality into Chrome. Enterprise IT admins can start here with the built-in LBS.

Roll, roll on back

Edge will offer rollback, which lets customers restore an earlier version after, for example, discovering that a crucial web app won't run in the latest. "This feature is designed to be a safety net for enterprises deploying Microsoft Edge," Microsoft stated in a support document on the upcoming feature.

Not surprisingly, caveats apply to rollback; the most important is a possibility of data loss, notably the user's browsing history, bookmarks, and other saved settings. "Only use rollback when necessary, there's always the risk of data loss," Microsoft wrote in the support document.

Rollback is supposed to debut in Edge 86, which is currently set to ship in early October.

Chrome has had this same capability – dubbed downgrade by Chrome – since version 84 (released in July). More information about downgrade can be found in this Google support document and in this support doc.

New tab page content added for enterprises

Microsoft has been pushing Edge's, well, edge over rivals when searching for inside-the-enterprise content and a customized new tab page that draws information from Office 365 and Microsoft 365 accounts.

New plans for the new tab page include the inclusion of company and industry news, which will take the place of the kind of general news that features prominently in the consumer experience on Edge.

For some reason, Microsoft does not want to give Edge a leg up over Chrome here, as it's created an add-on that customers can apply to Google's browser that replicates the Microsoft Search and new tab page experiences there. At one point, the Redmond, Wash. company was going to add the extension automatically to Chrome; it retreated from the idea after push-back from critics.

More information about Chrome and Microsoft Search is available here.

Validate digital signatures in PDFs

"Coming soon is the ability to view and validate PDF digital signatures in Microsoft Edge, which helps to ensure that the file is legitimate and hasn't been tampered with," wrote Liat Ben-Zur, a Microsoft marketing executive, in a long post last week to a company blog.

Every browser offers PDF viewing and navigation at this point, but Edge will soon tackle what Microsoft called a top request from enterprises: validating digital signatures without additional licensing requirements and costs.

Other PDF-related features that Microsoft has in its sights can be found here.

Chrome does not validate digital signatures. Instead, Google recommends that customers use Adobe software, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, for that task.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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