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Microsoft unveiled the latest version of its Edge browser, which includes new features that are expected to help IT admins run legacy-based applications and provide additional privacy controls.
The Microsoft Edge news, which was announced at the annual developer conference Microsoft Build, introduces IE mode, which will integrate Internet Explorer into Edge by way of a tab. The new feature, which is now available in preview, makes it possible for users to run legacy applications built on Internet Explorer on Microsoft Edge -- a move the company hopes will improve adoption of Microsoft's latest web browser.
"IT has been too dependent on the old version of Internet Explorer," said Holger Mueller, analyst at Constellation Research Inc. "A lot of custom apps -- and even some standard software -- still require the old IE version. This is why IE mode will help the move to Edge, while keeping backward compatibility alive."
Before IE mode, Microsoft Edge users had to enable Enterprise Mode, a feature on the existing Edge browser, to open applications not compatible with Edge on Internet Explorer. Mueller said this toggling back and forth was a pain point for users.
Mueller added that Microsoft's continued development of Edge on Chromium, Google's open source web browser, signifies the end of the browser wars, with Google and Chromium winning. In December, Microsoft announced its plans to develop Microsoft Edge on the Chromium project, which helped establish a standard for web developers and better web compatibility. Today's Microsoft Edge news will continue to ease the burden on IT departments that are balancing several web browsers.
"IE mode will address the more than 60% of businesses using multiple browsers today," Frank X. Shaw, head of communications at Microsoft, said during a press briefing. "No more hitting your corporate expense report and getting kicked over to [Internet Explorer], and no more additional management for IT departments."
The Microsoft Edge news may solve what Mueller called "a huge problem" in IT with managing legacy apps on an outdated browser. And it puts a more distinct focus on browser experience.
"The competition is now about overall user experience, so it's good Microsoft brought this together," Mueller said.
Privacy feature, Office integration
Beyond IE mode, two other features were unveiled at Build concerning Microsoft Edge. The first is better privacy controls that adjust how third-party companies can track you across the web. The second is a productivity feature that will enable users to organize tabs, webpages and information from the browser into Microsoft Office.
Holger MuellerAnalyst, Constellation Research Inc.
The privacy controls enable three levels of privacy within Microsoft Edge: unrestricted, balanced and strict. The selected level will adjust how third parties track employees' movements across the web.
Mueller called the privacy feature a possible differentiator over Google, which he said is less trusted than Microsoft on this issue. And Shaw said the privacy features will enable better transparency for users and an improved personalized experience.
"The principle we're starting from is keeping customers in control while on the web," Shaw said. "We hear from customers that they want more transparency, and we believe that this is an area that we can jointly improve together."
Microsoft is also hoping the Edge news coming out of Build will improve the integration between web browsing and Microsoft Office. Users, both professionally and personally, typically search the web across multiple browsers and multiple devices. Connecting those searches and information can be fragmented, according to Shaw.
The Microsoft Edge browser will now include a productivity feature that will help collect, organize, share and export content with an Office integration.
Details are scarce around the productivity feature, but Shaw outlined an online scenario of shopping for a camera for his daughter that ultimately needed to combine information such as reviews and prices from multiple sites into one location. Using the productivity feature, users can add the information and pages they've gathered into a collection pane and then export the pane into Microsoft Office.
"People do a series of things to try and counteract this [disconnect], but it's disjointed," Shaw said.
Mueller added that integrations between Microsoft products are an area that can always be improved by Microsoft, and this planned integration with Office and the Edge browser is a good sign.
"This is where [Microsoft] has been asleep at the wheel," Mueller said. "More synergy with Office will only help Microsoft users."