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Microsoft nixes ActiveX add-on technology in new Edge browser

Gregg Keizer | May 12, 2015
IE11 support will continue for enterprises -- which rely on ActiveX -- but don't expect that to outlast Windows 7.

For enterprises, features such as ActiveX and BHOs will live on in IE11, which also will be bundled with Windows 10 on PCs and larger tablets (but not Windows 10 Mobile). Businesses can use policy settings to mandate IE11 when the user steers towards certain URLs, say those on internal networks or line-of-business Web apps written long ago.

IE11 will be updated for Windows 10, but only with security improvements: It will not be given new features or functionality, indicating again that IE is a dead-end to Microsoft, and will be continued only for legacy purposes.

Like Windows 10 itself, Microsoft plans to update Edge far more frequently than it did Internet Explorer, with changes appearing at a tempo that has yet to be decided. "Is it going to be 45 days or 90 days or 73 days? We haven't quite worked out the exact cadence," said Lyndersay. "But we have the technical ability to update and bring the entire user base along with us on a rapid pace."

Yet IE11 will be supported for the indefinite future. Last year, when Microsoft abruptly told most customers that they had to migrate to IE11 by mid-January 2016, it said that IE11 would be supported for as long as "the operating system for which it is installed," meaning that it would survive support at least as long as Windows 7. That OS exits support in January 2020.

Whether that policy will also apply to Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 -- the latter may have an open-ended support lifetime -- was unclear, but during the Build session it sounded like it would not, and that at some point IE11 will be retired.

"We haven't made any statements there," said Charles Morris, the other Edge principal program manager who ran the session along with Lyndersay, while answering a question about IE11's end of support. "We haven't set a marker in the future. But [ending support is] definitely the direction we're moving. We want to provide a transition time for our customers to get off these old technologies, [but] we don't know exactly how long that will take."

After last August's announcement curtailing support for older editions of IE, it would not be a shock if Microsoft did the same to IE11 in 2020 when it retires Windows 7. The move was a repudiation of a decades-old policy and signaled that nothing was safe from the chopping block.

Even IE.


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