IT depts cool over white-hot Firefox

Open source browser an Internet hit but enterprise orphan

The release of version 2.0 of Firefox this week reminded Internet users that Web browser competition is alive and well, but IT managers remain cool about replacing the ubiquitous Internet Explorer.

IT manager at pastoral company and interstate cattle station operator S. Kidman & Co Terry Omond said the company is locked into IE because some of its software is built around it.

"We have client server and Web-based applications so we've used a lot of IE's functionality," Omond said, adding this decision was made back in the late nineties which pre-dates Firefox.

S. Kidman & Co's operations run across four states of Australia and the company runs up to 200,000 cattle and has 200 staff in some of the most remote areas of the country.

"The browser is not a big issue," Omond told Computerworld. "It's not a burning priority to change from one browser to another as we have plenty of other things to [use] resources before that."

Omond said the browser battle is similar to desktop operating system arguments.

"We use Windows XP and open source on the servers but don't have a business case to move from XP to Linux on the desktop," he said.

On security, Omond said it is a concern but it is "very much a double-edged sword" because if large numbers of people switch to Firefox "people will hack that as well".

Allan Dawson, IT manager at Sutherland Shire Council south of Sydney, said there is "no chance" of migrating from IE to Firefox because it is "supported by Microsoft and everyone knows how to use IE".

"We know [IE] has problems but everyone knows how to use it and we have a lot of apps that need a browser which are more likely to work with IE," Dawson said, adding his department doesn't want to go through application testing with Firefox.

Dawson said the council is relying on firewall and antivirus software to "cut down" on IE problems.

While Dawson may not be deploying Firefox at the council, he does use the browser on his home PC and speaks highly of it.

"I use it at home because it's open [and] it's great," he said. "I'm not having anywhere as many problems as IE and it seems to be a fair bit quicker. At work I use IE as I need to make sure things are working with the usual apps the staff are using."

Dawson said the first thing that needs to happen to encourage enterprise uptake is for the application vendors to recommend Firefox as the preferred browser because the biggest issue is certification.

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