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Microsoft Claims PC Power Savings with Edge Browser

Microsoft claimed today that its Edge browser beats out rivals in terms of energy efficiency.

The claim is based on Microsoft's internal testing using Microsoft Surface machines, as well as data from "millions of Windows 10 devices around the world," according to Jason Weber, director of the Microsoft Edge Web platform team, in an announcement. Microsoft's internal testing showed Edge on Windows 10 as being 36 percent to 53 percent more energy efficient than other browsers, namely Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera Software's Opera. Real-world data from Windows machines around the world affirmed these lab results, Microsoft claimed.

It's an important claim, especially for mobile workers on the run and lacking power outlets. To conduct its lab tests, Microsoft unplugged the Surface machines and ran videos in the browsers until the batteries were drained. The tests found that Chrome consumed the most power of the four browsers tested. The Microsoft Edge browser lasted "three hours longer than Google Chrome," according to Microsoft's testing.

Microsoft is promising even more power improvements to come with the release of the anniversary update of Windows 10, expected to arrive sometime this summer. Specifically, Edge running on the Windows 10 anniversary update will support "fewer CPU cycles, consuming less memory" and it will reduce the effects of "peripheral content like Flash advertisements."

Anniversary Update Improvements
The Windows 10 anniversary update, sometimes referred to as the "Redstone 1" release for its purported code name, will reduce the power used by background tabs in the Edge browser. Background tabs put a drag on CPU use, but Microsoft has seen its techniques produce "energy savings of over 90% in some scenarios," according to Brandon Heenan, a Microsoft Edge program manager, in an announcement.

The Windows 10 anniversary update also will put Flash ads into a separate process. Heenan explained that the Flash controls that aren't essential "are paused by default." Websites won't get affected when Flash ads crash because of this isolated process, he added.

Microsoft also will be improving the efficiency of animations in its Edge browser's reading mode. Animations will have a "near zero" impact on power use. Edge will use a machine's graphical processing unit, rather than XAML animation, to obtain this power efficiency. Microsoft is also reducing identical animation frames in the reading mode to improve power use.

The Windows 10 anniversary update is also contributing to power savings via a "new TCP Fast Open" feature in Edge. It reduces the number of messages sent between the device and server. Microsoft earlier explained it as reducing the round trip time needed for secure TLS connections. Similarly, the anniversary update will waste less time tracking down lost packets, Microsoft claimed. These improvements can be tested in the latest Windows Insider program release of Windows 10 (build 14366 or greater), according to Microsoft.

It turns out that Surface devices make good test machines to track power use. They have hardware specifically designed to measure power consumption, and it's 98 percent accurate, according to Heenan. Windows 10 systems have an Energy Estimation Engine, which lets all battery-powered Windows 10 devices track energy use "across hardware, apps and services." It's shown off here.

Enterprise Mode XML 2 Support
Use of the Microsoft Edge browser is still below 3 percent, according to the U.S. government's Digital Analytics Program. This program just tracks browser use at U.S. government sites, though. Adoption is perhaps reduced due to Edge's limitations. For instance, Edge currently has rudimentary plug-in capabilities and it lacks the ability to import bookmarks, except from Internet Explorer. Still, Edge is where Microsoft has been putting its engineering muscle, going forward.

Many organizations may be waiting out Edge improvements and are using Internet Explorer 11 instead, typically because they need to assure Web application and intranet compatibilities. For those organizations, Microsoft announced this month that it will be supporting XML version 2 for its Enterprise Mode tools. Enterprise Mode is Microsoft's tooling to help organizations more easily switch browsers to avoid legacy support issues.

Support for XML version 2 supposedly will make it easier to read the schema code that's used with Enterprise Mode tooling. The XML version 2 support is taking effect this month for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 operating systems.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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