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The Death of Internet Explorer in Name Only

When Microsoft talked up the company's next-generation browser, code-named "Project Spartan," at this week's Windows Convergence conference in Atlanta, the obituaries came pouring in for Internet Explorer. It flashed on the screen of CNBC, it was on every general news site and was talked about all over social media.

Perhaps those outside of IT hadn't heard about Project Spartan, which Microsoft began talking about in some detail back in January. Microsoft explained at the time that the new browser will contain a new rendering engine, called "EdgeHTML." To create that new rendering engine, Microsoft forked the code in Internet Explorer's Trident engine. Spartan will offer both rendering engines, including the legacy MSHTML engine used for Trident. As reported by my colleague Kurt Mackie:

Organizations will be able to use the Spartan browser even if they have legacy IE support issues to address. When legacy support needs arise, Spartan will be capable of running the old IE Trident engine via Enterprise Mode. Microsoft's Enterprise Mode technology is an IE 11 solution that emulates earlier IE browser technologies all of the way back to IE 5 for compatibility purposes.

Reports this week that Microsoft is killing the Internet Explorer brand do appear to be the long-term plan from a branding perspective. MIT Technology Review Senior Editor Rachel Mertz is among those who believe Microsoft should retire Internet Explorer.

"The changes both to the browser and the branding make a lot of sense," she wrote. "Internet Explorer, first released in the mid-1990s, dominated the browser market at its peak in the early 2000s, but it came to be associated with poor security and compatibility with other browsers and has since languished. Spartan's success is critical if Microsoft is to remain relevant in the Web browser business -- a market in which it used to dominate but now trails Google's Chrome."

At the same time, enterprise users aren't going to want to see Internet Explorer, or at least the rendering capabilities of whatever it calls its next browser, go away. For its part, Microsoft is promising the new browser will offer the same compatibility it has offered in past upgrades."Project Spartan is Microsoft's next generation browser, built just for Windows 10," according to a company statement. "We will continue to make Internet Explorer available with Windows 10 for enterprises and other customers who require legacy browser support."

Now the question is: what will Microsoft call its new browser?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/20/2015 at 1:03 PM


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