Browser add-on takes Windows 7 users back to the future

Allows use of outdated apps after migration

Government users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer will soon have an option to go old school and use IE6, the browser compatible with Windows XP, without having to sacrifice an upgrade to Windows 7, reported Gregg Keizer in a ComputerWorld article Nov. 3.

The add-on could be a real boon to government technologists, as many government legacy applications and older computers aren’t compatible with Windows 7. Agencies were faced with a choice of forgoing Windows 7, dropping useful legacy apps or developing complicated workarounds and buying new hardware.

A recent Gartner study predicted that enterprises are likely to increase their PC-buying budgets by 20 percent to 60 percent in 2011 and 2012 to handle the migration. These numbers may not adequately take into account applications specially developed for government offices that may need to be replaced or recoded with the upgrade. Approximately 40 percent of web applications that organizations run on IE6 won't work on IE8, the browser bundled with Windows 7, said Gartner.

Related coverage:

Gartner: Pump up  your budget for Windows 7 migrations

Enterprises are shifting to Windows 7

Air Force starts long trek to Windows 7

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization 2.0 released

The add-on, called UniBrows, was created by Browsium, a startup comprised of individuals who worked on creating IE, and will run as a tab inside IE8. While Microsoft released a beta version of a desktop virtualization program (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization 2.0) last month to address the migration issues, organizations need a simple solution that isn’t virtualization-based and won’t require them to change code in the sites or web applications, said Matt Heller, the CEO of Washington-based Browsium, in the ComputerWorld article. Browsium licensed several dynamic-link libraries (DLLs), from Microsoft to make the add-on render a site or application just as does a stand-alone version of IE6, reported ComputerWorld.

UniBrows will run as a local process on a machine, said Matt Crowley, chief technology officer of Browsium, quoted in the ComputerWorld article. The add-on will support all the functionality of IE6 including Active-X controls for IE6 and its Javascript. Using UniBrows, IT administrators will be able to designate which sites and applications should run in IE6 within IE8. The add-on works on any version of Windows that supports IE8, including XP, Vista and Windows 7.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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