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Chrome IE retooled for business

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Google had rolled out IT admin controls for deploying and configuring its Chrome browser across business networks.

On Wednesday morning, the company unveiled an MSI installer for deploying Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, and it beefed up the increasingly-popular browser with support for managed group policies and authentication protocols, offering a list of policies and a set of templates for managing privacy and security.

This includes group policy support for Google Chrome Frame, the plug-in that turns Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser into a Google browser. With today's announcement - under the heading "Chrome is Ready for Business" - Mountain View is once again taking aim at Microsoft's traditional enterprise business. In an email to The Reg, a Google spokeswoman pointed out that Internet Explorer 9 - which has finally delivered Microsoft from the browser dark ages - won't run on Windows XP, an operating system that, by Microsoft's estimation, is still used by 74 per cent of all businesses.

In essence, Chrome Frame equips older versions of Microsoft's browser with the rendering and JavaScript engines at the heart of Google Chrome. It was originally built to run Google Wave - the company's email-meets-IM-meets-document sharing service - on older versions of IE6. But then Google killed Wave. And now Chrome Frame has joined Google's ongoing effort to conquer the business world.

Google is pitching Chrome Frame at businesses who still use custom-built applications that require existing versions of Internet Explorer. You can run HTML5 applications via Chrome Frame, but then fall back on IE's host rendering engine as needed.

When Google Chrome Frame first arrived last year, Microsoft was (predictably) annoyed. "With Internet Explorer 8, we made significant advancements and updates to make the browser safer for our customers," the company told us. "Given the security issues with plug-ins in general and Google Chrome in particular, Google Chrome Frame running as a plug-in has doubled the attack area for malware and malicious scripts. This is not a risk we would recommend our friends and families take."

Mozilla also came out against Chrome Frame, making a more rational argument. Mozilla vp of engineering Mike Shaver pointed out that Chrome Frame sidestepped IE's built-in security tools, arguing this would end up confusing net users.

"The user’s understanding of the web’s security model and the behaviour of their browser is seriously hindered by delegating the choice of software to the developers of individual sites they visit," he said, a nod to the fact that individual websites or applications dictated when Chrome Frame is launched.

"It is a problem that we have seen repeatedly with other stack-plugins like Flash, Silverlight and Java, and not one that I think we need to see replayed again under the banner of HTML5."

Mozilla boss Mitchell Baker took a similar stance. "If you end up at a website that makes use of the Chrome Frame, the treatment of your passwords, security settings, personalization, and all the other things one sets in a browser is suddenly unknown," she said. "Will sites you tag or bookmark while browsing with one rendering engine show up in the other? Because the various parts of the browser are no longer connected, actions that have one result in the browser you think you’re using won’t have the same result in the Chrome browser-within-a-browser."

But in the months since, Google addressed at least some of this criticism. If you're using IE's private browsing mode and the browser switches to Chrome Frame, for instance, Google will turn on a similar private browsing setting. The plug-in also follows IE's cache-clearing and cookie-blocking tools.

With Google's new group policy settings, you can set up Chrome Frame as the default rendering engine, and you can arrange the plug-in to always handle certain URL patterns. Likewise, you can arrange for IE's host engine to always handle other patterns.

Google provides phone- and email-based technical support for its new Chrome admin tools through its Google Apps for Business service. And for those who aren't Google Apps for Business customers, it provides online documentation. You can download the new MSI installer and browse the documentation here. ®

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