The web browser has come a long way, from being a novelty item that allowed you to access basic content on the web to a product that can possibly be the only application you need on the desktop. Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and many others are now making high-quality browsers (for free) and with more software moving to the cloud, the impact of a browser is expanding its reach to software and hardware companies.
In the enterprise space, much of the critical software applications are moving to cloud-based infrastructure. The result of this fundamental shift in how software is developed, distributed and maintained is that the end user machine is no longer a significant variable in the performance pipeline.
Many years ago when rolling out software upgrades, IT pros would have to seriously consider the age of its equipment and specs of local machines to see if the new software was supported. And while the goal of most large companies is to have all employees running identical machines/specs, we all know that’s not a reality.
But with a browser, this goal is much closer to a reality as it is easier to deploy the latest version of Chrome/Firefox to all machines or know exactly which version of Edge each user has installed. And with software running in the cloud, and not just simple things like email, but full blow enterprise applications, the desktop PC is facing a new challenge like it has never faced before.
Now, this isn’t a post about how Windows is dead, you can find a million of those ill-informed articles around the web. While I do think that Windows is more of a utility and Microsoft has done a good job positioning Windows 10 as a secure platform for the web browser, it is easy to see how the web browser is the future of the enterprise.
Nearly everything can now be run in the browser today including Office, ERP software, photo editing, email and just about everything else can be accomplished using the modern web; if you don’t think this scenario is viable today, you need to look deeper.
This shift has a large impact for all involved and is opening the door to companies like Google, to enter the enterprise space. For Microsoft, the impact is obvious, Windows may no longer be an essential tool for enterprise companies but for a company like Intel, this shift has a big impact on their operations as well.
If the enterprise only needs a browser to run most, or even all, applications, low-powered hardware is no longer a problem for the end user. Sure, they will still need a modest processor and a large amount of RAM but this type of configuration will have a much longer lifecycle which means fewer hardware components purchased. Additionally, if all the enterprise really needs is a browser, they may not need any Intel components and could run on ARM hardware which has scaled up quickly to produce more power at lower cost.
Software moving to the cloud and being utilized thought the browser is opening up the possibility about where and how ‘work’ can be accomplished. This is a big shift for the industry and is why those who build browser today are investing a significant amount of resources into their products to make sure they have a spot in the future of the enterprise even though this software is distributed for free.