Breaking through the strongholds of virtualizing Internet Explorer

Redmond seems to have tuned to the channels hosting the constant complaints by IT administrators who want to virtualise Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). The statement below culled from Microsoft’s website had always been an obstacle to the legitimate use of a virtualised version of Internet Explorer:

“Running multiple versions of Internet Explorer on a single instance of Windows is an unsupported solution.  Microsoft strongly discourages the usage of such solutions that repackage the executable components of Internet Explorer into a separate installation.  Executing multiple versions of Internet Explorer from such packages on a single instance of Windows will result in an unsupportable configuration by Microsoft Customer Support Services.”

Some application virtualisation products e.g. VMware ThinApp, Install Bridge etc. introduced the capability to virtualise Microsoft Internet Explorer but such usage did not comply with Microsoft’s licensing laws. The recommendation by Microsoft was to use a virtual machine type solution e.g. Terminal Services, Med-V, XP Mode in Windows 7 etc. but the infrastructure cost and overhead on endpoint devices in order to run such services did not make these solutions attractive.

The recent news by Microsoft that Windows 8 will include a Hyper-V Client with support for Internet Explorer virtualisation is indeed a step in the right direction. The Hyper-V Client will run pre-configured virtual machines hosting earlier versions of Internet Explorer with lightweight versions of the Windows OS.  As plausible as this sounds, there will still be an overhead on system resources. Apart from the Hyper-V Client in Windows 8, UniBrows by Browsium still seems to be the only product in the market place which does not contravene Microsoft’s EULA. However, UniBrows capability is making IE6 applications compatible with IE8 & IE9.

Microsoft needs to review the EULA for Internet Explorer in order to allow the virtualisation of IE.

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