erwin vasser MicrosoftMark Hachman

Corporations to get improved Internet Explorer compatibility mode (but not consumers)

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 update solves one of the compatibility problems within Internet Explorer. But you might never see this part of the update if you don't work for a business.

The new Windows 8.1 Update contains a feature called Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11, which basically approximates how Internet Explorer 8 would render the page, but with all the protections installed within IE 11, which ships with Windows 8.1 (Howtogeek.com, from where we pulled our accompanying image, has published an excellent primer on what IE 11’s enterprise mode actually is.) 

enterprise mode Howtogeek.com

The new Internet Explorer enterprise mode.

Do you have compatibility problems with IE 11? Issues tend to crop up on a site-by-site basis, and it’s unclear whether a typical user will run into any problems. The problem is sufficiently widespread that Microsoft set up a dedicated reporting site late last year and installed the new feature into Internet Explorer.

The goal, explained Erwin Visser, a senior director in the Windows Commercial Division, was to help business users improve compatibility issues within the Web apps they use on a daily basis. While IE has its own separate compatibility mode, Enterprise Mode is a specific tool for IT managers, he said. It’s turned off by default.

One of the core design elements of Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 concerns managing devices owned by users and brought into an enterprise or business (commonly known as the BYOD trend, or "bring your own device"). Windows Phone 8.1, for example, will erase all mail and calendar information if an employee is terminated or otherwise leaves the company. While IE's Enterprise Mode doesn’t sandbox data, it does address the reality that some internal Web sites or apps were created years ago and haven’t been updated as frequently as outward-facing sites.

For now, however, Enterprise Mode will remain just that, an enterprise-only feature. At a press event on Wednesday, Rob Horwitz, a co-founder of the analyst group Directions on Microsoft, made an impassioned plea for Enterprise Mode to migrate to the consumer version of IE 11. But Visser and other Microsoft executives said they had no such plans. So if you’re having issues with IE 11, you might want to try out an alternative browser.

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