Analysts: IE entrenched in the enterprise

Many businesses would find it difficult to switch from Internet Explorer to rival browsers, due to a Microsoft-software dependency, say analysts

Analysts have said the "overwhelming dominance" of Microsoft's Internet Explorer in the workplace will be difficult to overcome for rival browsers, such as Firefox and Chrome.

The main reason for the apparent resilience of Internet Explorer (IE) is the near ubiquity of Microsoft products used in enterprises today.

Ray Valdes, Gartner research vice president, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia: "Due to long-standing accumulations of dependencies, most enterprises will find it difficult or unfeasible to switch from IE to an alternative browser, such as Firefox, Opera or Safari."

Valdes said it would be "difficult, if not impossible" for the average organisation to abandon IE in favour of these alternative browsers. He noted that many software systems and applications are dependent on IE's HTML-rendering engine embedded into other Microsoft applications, such as email client Microsoft Outlook.

Another driving factor is IE's administrative functions that allow enterprises to centrally manage and administer the browser, Valdes added. "Unlike Firefox, Microsoft provides mechanisms that meet this requirement, such as group policy objects and the Internet Explorer Administration Kit."

"A key enterprise requirement is the ability to centrally manage and administer the browser... As a result, for many organisations, abandoning IE and replacing it with another browser is unrealistic," he said.

Through these management tools, for example, companies can more efficiently control user access and better manage security policies related to web browsing.

According to IDC, IE's dominance is also perpetuated by the rest of the IT industry, creating a cyclical relationship.

Because IE currently has the dominant market share, makers of websites, software applications and other components that are accessible via a web browser, will place the highest priority on ensuring their products support IE, Mark Levitt, IDC's programme vice president for collaboration and enterprise 2.0 strategies, told ZDNet Asia.

While new features offered in Firefox or Chrome could help boost either browser's position if they show "sufficient advantages over IE", Levitt said Microsoft would be unlikely to give the competition enough time to close the gap before it releases similar features for IE.