REDMOND, Wash., March 10, 1999 — As recently as two years ago, most corporations didn’t devote much time or effort to picking a Web browser. Back then, IT planners were likely to view the online world as more nuisance than necessity. They worried that the Web was a time-waster, used for tracking sports scores and stock prices instead of communicating with colleagues or gathering information about customers and competitors. As a result, the corporate browser of choice was simply the one that came loaded on a new machine, or that more savvy users downloaded from the Web.
But with business moving online at breakneck speed, selecting a Web browser is now a crucial strategic decision. While tens of thousands of companies are using the Web for commerce, thousands more are using internal Web sites to transform the way they conduct business. Intranets are providing powerful new ways for companies to store and disseminate information, and intranet applications are changing the way companies handle day-to-day tasks from procurement to invoicing to human resources. Today the Web is more than just a diversion, it is a critical part of the way corporations create and maintain a competitive advantage.
So when a new browser hits the market, close attention is paid. And with the release of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 just days away, all eyes are turned to Redmond. The question on everyone’s mind: Is it a better business browser?
But even before the final version of Microsoft’s latest browser becomes widely available, the answer is already clear. Industry reviewers have been subjecting Internet Explorer 5 to intense scrutiny since last fall. Almost without exception, they’re calling it the industry’s leading browser: more flexible, more powerful, and easier to use than any other browser available today.
Even stronger proof comes in the form of corporate beta users who are already making Internet Explorer 5 their preferred browser. Eli Lily and Company, Ernst & Young LLP, JD Edwards & Co., and Dresdner Kleinwort Benson are just a few of the rapidly growing number of leading companies around the world who have discovered that Internet Explorer 5 is increasing productivity and lowering costs by helping employees get the most out of their time on the Web, while helping programmers create Web-based applications more quickly and efficiently.
“Microsoft has impressed us with Internet Explorer during our deployment of previous versions,” said Mark Natelson, director of standards responsible for the configuration of Internet Explorer 5, which will be used across Ernst & Young LLP’s approximately 60,000 desktops worldwide. “We’re currently in a mixed browser environment and are excited to roll out Internet Explorer 5 and benefit from standardization as well as all of the enhanced technologies and tools it offers.”
Simpler is Better
Increased productivity, faster development time, and smaller applications are all the result of a drive to take the complexity out of Internet technologies, according to Microsoft Internet Explorer product manager Mike Nichols. Following the release of Internet Explorer 4, Microsoft made it a priority to work with corporate customers to find out they wanted from a browser. The number one answer? Simplicity.
“We did a tremendous amount of research with a wide range of companies,” Nichols said. “What we found out was that they wanted us to make it easier for users to be productive once they are on the Web. They also wanted it to be easier to manage, both during set-up and after it has been installed.”
One of the keys to creating a browser that satisfied the demand for simplicity was the incorporation of IntelliSense technologies. First included in Microsoft Office, IntelliSense is a collection of technologies designed to reduce the complexity of difficult tasks and make routine tasks automatic.
Among the IntelliSense features included in Internet Explorer 5 are AutoCorrect, which automatically fixes common typing mistakes when entering URLs; Windows Synchronization Manager, which allows users to easily access Web pages for offline use; and the new Search Assistant, which helps users find information on the Web by harnessing the power of different search engines to conduct quick, optimized searches. IntelliSense can also detect auto-configuring proxies and determine whether users are working online or offline, making life significantly easier for mobile users.
IntelliSense technologies played an important role in convincing JD Edwards & Co. to adopt Internet Explorer 5 as its standard desktop browser. “After evaluating other browsers we found that hands down, Internet Explorer 5 offers the fastest and easiest-to-use browsing solution available today,” said Doug Eichner, IT Project Manager. “With Internet Explorer 5 and its IntelliSense technologies we can rest assured that our employees just getting on the Web for the first time will have a positive and productive experience.”
Providing a Stronger Platform
While simplicity and ease of use is making it easy for companies to make the upgrade to Internet Explorer 5, it is the new browser’s power as a development platform that may ultimately prove to be the most compelling factor attracting new users. With companies moving more and more of their day-to-day business on to internet sites, the ability to create Web-based line-of-business applications that integrate tightly with a company’s existing information infrastructure is essential. Internet Explorer 5 was designed specifically to give developers the tools and features they need to reduce development time and lower costs.
Among those features are support for a wide range of the latest Web technologies, including HTML 4.0, the Document Object Model (DOM), Cascading Style Sheets, and Extensible Markup Language (XML). Based on a highly componentized architecture, Internet Explorer 5 lets developers take advantage of portions of the browser code to incorporate Web-related functionality into their own products.
“Internet Explorer 5 enables much easier development and maintenance of Internet/Intranet applications,” said Lori Vosefski, team leader for collaboration services at Eli Lilly, which is deploying Internet Explorer on more than 27,000 desktops. “We anticipate a reduction of 10 percent in development time as well as a 15 percent decrease in the size of Web-based applications. Neither of these advances would be possible without the enhanced developer functionality within Internet Explorer 5.”
And while many features of Internet Explorer 5 were designed with developers in mind, others were included to make life easier for corporate network administrators. The Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK), designed to give IT managers greater control and increased flexibility in customizing, deploying, and managing the browser, is earning high marks from IT professionals. Utilizing a wizard-based user interface, the IEAK allows administrators to tailor browser features to meet specific corporate needs, set security levels, lock down settings, and add unique toolbar buttons and menu items. After deploying the new browser, they can deliver updates and new features from a central server.
According to Jan Jones, Information Technology Manager of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, one of the world’s leading global investment banks, the power of the IEAK was instrumental in the company’s decision to adopt Internet Explorer 5 as the desktop standard for its more than 30,000 desktops worldwide.
“The Internet Explorer Administration Kit 5 provides the flexibility to customize Internet Explorer 5 to fit my organization’s needs,” said Jones. “And with its easy-to-use and powerful administration capabilities, we will be able to focus more of our efforts on other areas of technology such as building enterprise applications to improve our business processes.”
The Momentum Builds
Based on the success of the Internet Explorer 5 beta program, Microsoft officials are anticipating great interest in the official launch of the new browser on March 18. In the first month after the beta version of Internet Explorer 5 was made available, more than 600,000 copies were downloaded. According to Mike Nichols, by early March the volume of downloads was more than triple the number that Microsoft saw during the beta testing period for Internet Explorer 4.
Nichols also reports that customer satisfaction with the new browser has been extremely high; 93 percent of beta users who responded to an online survey were happy with the direction of Internet Explorer 5, especially the IntelliSense technologies, he notes.
“Demand is high, satisfaction is high,” says Nichols. “We’ve seen great momentum with Internet Explorer because we have worked extremely hard to ensure that it meets the needs that corporate customers expressed to us in our research. The great thing about it is that the benefits-greater ease of use, more flexibility, the simplification of routine tasks-also make it a better browser for home users as well.”