'Futile' to build browsers for enterprise

Pointless developing browsers for businesses since individual consumers more valuable demographic, despite validity of enterprise complaints over shortened upgrade cycle for Firefox browser, note analysts, who suggest long-term commitment to one browser version.

Businesses have valid reasons to cry foul over the shortened release development cycle for Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Web browser, but pushing browser makers to develop solely for enterprise use is a "futile strategy", analysts note.

Tony Baer, principal analyst at Ovum, said it was understandable that enterprises would complain about Mozilla's announcement to shorten the release cycle for new versions of its Firefox Web browser.

Describing the schedule as "insane", Bauer said in an e-mail: "An enterprise can only move so fast. Given that there are organizations out there still using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6, it is not reasonable to expect them to constantly keep pace with the latest Firefox releases."

Harley Manning, vice president and research director at Forrester Research, concurred, adding that it should not surprise anyone that the release cycles were "causing problems" for corporate IT.

In fact, Manning called on Mozilla to change its "always in beta" mentality in order to accommodate the reality of the corporate environment if it wants to be part of the enterprise equation.

Mozilla had unveiled in June that new versions of Firefox would come out every six weeks, instead of its previous three-month cycle.

After the announcement, IT professionals stepped out to say that such a move would affect their internal browser deployment and management processes. One browser consultant, Mike Kaply, said in his blog: "While the rapid release process sounds great, it's an absolute fail for large deployments of Firefox."

In response to comments on Kaply's blog post, Mozilla spokesperson Asa Dotzler described enterprise downloads of Firefox as "really just a drop in the bucket, fractions of fractions of a percent of our user base".

"Enterprise has never been--and I'll argue, shouldn't be--a focus of ours," Dotzler wrote.

When contacted, Stormy Peters, Mozilla's head of developer engagement, told ZDNet Asia that the shift to a rapid release development cycle would deliver "cutting-edge Firefox performance enhancements, security updates and stability improvements faster" to users.

Peters also pointed to Mozilla's re-established Enterprise Working Group to help IT departments adjust to the new release schedule. The forum acts as a platform for dialogue between IT departments, Firefox developers and other stakeholders to find solutions that will "work best for all parties" and formulate best practices and solutions to adapting to a rapid release cycle, she explained.

Long-term commitment to browser
Asked if browser makers should build browsers dedicated solely for corporate environments, Baer disagreed. He explained that with the consumerization of IT, browser makers would view such projects as a "futile strategy" since individual users were the more valuable demographic to target.

An earlier ZDNet Asia report noted that more organizations were becoming more receptive toward adopting a "bring-your-own" device strategy as more employees used their personal devices to access business-related data--which would render an enterprise-only browser pointless.

Instead, Baer suggested that companies should choose a browser version and commit to it for at least 12 to 18 months to reduce deployment complexities. "Go with a basic choice such as a standard HTML5 browser," he said.

Committing to enterprise users
Other browser makers ZDNet Asia contacted stressed their commitment to enterprise deployments of their respective browsers.

Jonathan Wong, Internet Explorer (IE) product manager at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, said the company feels a "strong obligation" to roll out richer features and experiences via new versions of its browser in a "responsible manner". This includes taking into account companies' environments and needs to minimize any potential inconveniences on their end, Wong explained in an e-mail.

"Just as consumers should benefit from enterprise-grade security, corporate users should also be afforded the opportunity to enjoy the full-featured functionalities and experiences typically sought after by mainstream users," he stated.

He also noted that Redmond would continue to support every version of Internet Explorer as long as the version of Windows the browser operated on was supported.

A Google spokesperson said the vendor's enterprise users do not need to upgrade the entire operating system or acquire other software licenses to deploy Chrome--something which may be required by other browsers.

Additionally, Chrome also offers full management controls that enable IT administrators to "easily configure and deploy the browser" according to their business requirements, including security and corporate compliance, and pushes updates whenever available, she added.


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