Browser Wars Back On

Firefox fires up the market, but IE's enterprise roots run wide and deep.

The Mozilla Foundations release of Firefox 1.0 earlier this month reignited the browser wars on consumer desktops. But on corporate machines, the free open-source browser faces an uphill battle in its effort to challenge Microsoft Corp.s dominant Internet Explorer.

eWEEK Labs spoke with a number of IT managers who applaud Firefox 1.0 as a viable competitor to IE. But citing a lack of support from application vendors and deployment costs, most said they are sticking with IE—for now.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead eWEEK Labs review of Firefox 1.0 here.

"I am impressed with the overall usability and performance of Firefox, but to retool our users and our applications just doesnt make sense at this time," said Michael Sherwood, director of IT for the city of Oceanside, Calif. "While IE is not progressive with new features, we have spent heavily on a back-end infrastructure that includes [Microsofts] .Net and SQL Server."

Its not surprising that applications from Microsoft would support only IE, but many enterprise products from other vendors also support only the Microsoft browser.

While vendors that support multiple browser platforms say they do so to stay competitive, those that support only IE cite that browsers dominance and the cost of optimizing applications for multiple browsers. Most of these vendors say theyll wait until Firefox or some other browser gains corporate acceptance.

IEs market share has dropped during the last few months, but it still commands more than 90 percent of the market. Mozilla-based browsers, Apple Computer Inc.s Safari and Opera Software ASAs Opera make up the rest.

Oceanside is standardized on IE because the citys custom applications take advantage of Microsofts .Net platform and .Nets integration with IE, said Sherwood. As a result, deploying Firefox to 1,500 users would be more complicated than installing the browser on every desktop.

"Were not going to stop everything were doing to deploy Firefox because the benefits simply dont outweigh the cost involved at this time," Sherwood said. "The compatibility is pretty amazing, but this doesnt change the fact that we lack the time to test every application and scenario."

However, Sherwood said Firefox has many benefits that he hopes to take advantage of in the future. For example, Firefoxs open code base means the city will be able to develop internal applications and improve or alter existing code. And while Sherwood isnt encouraging users to install Firefox, hes also not stopping them. In fact, he has plans to include the browser in future workstation rollouts.

At FN Manufacturing Inc., Ed Benincasa, vice president of MIS and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, said Firefox functionality testing has found that some applications, such as the companys ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, wont function on browsers other than IE. As a result, the Columbia, S.C., precision machining manufacturer will wait until suppliers update their applications to work with other browsers before moving corporate desktops off IE.

Of course, companies that dont rely on IE-specific applications will have an easier time making the switch.

At Inc., IT managers decided to support both IE and Firefox beginning with the Firefox 0.9 release in June. The Santa Monica, Calif., companys 250 users have the option of using either browser, said Sean Phillips, executive director of development for The decision was easy to make because has made sure both its intranet and extranet are cross-platform-compatible.

Next page: Supporting multiple platforms.