Microsoft Unveils 'Internet Explorer as a Service'

Microsoft on Sunday launched a preview of "RemoteIE," a free service that delivers the latest version of the Internet Explorer (IE) browser across Windows, Apple and Android platforms.

RemoteIE can be accessed via various Azure RemoteApp preview client applications for Windows, Android, Mac OS X and Apple iOS devices. The service is aimed at providing developers with the latest build of IE so that they can test their Web apps and sites. RemoteIE is not meant to be a substitute for a locally installed browser. However, it does offer an alternative to non-Windows platform users who now no longer have to run IE atop a Windows virtual machine in order to carry out tests.

RemoteIE reflects the browser technology used in the Windows 10 technical preview for Enterprise edition. Unlike previous Windows preview releases, Microsoft pushes down improvements to Windows 10, as well as to its next IE browser, via Windows Update as part of its Windows Insider test program. For instance, late last month, Microsoft released a second build of the Windows 10 preview. With RemoteIE, users can be assured of accessing the latest IE build as Microsoft intends to keep those bits updated.

Of course, developers can always install the Windows 10 preview and test a natively installed browser, instead of running it in a virtual machine. But Microsoft is touting RemoteIE as the best way for developers to test IE if they haven't installed the latest Windows preview build. It even comes with access to developer tools via the F12 key.

"Going forward, this [RemoteIE] will be the recommended way for developers who are not running Windows 10 to test the latest IE preview versions," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Essentially, though, RemoteIE is accessing IE running on Windows Server 2012 R2. Sessions are timed because users are remotely sharing a service. The RemoteIE service times out after 10 minutes of idle use, and it maxes out after 60 minutes of use. Users have to reconnect again via Azure RemoteApp if they use the service for more than an hour. Microsoft even warns that users could experience connection problems if the service gets too busy.

As a remote service, RemoteIE doesn't have access to local resources, such as hardware-acceleration via a machine's graphics processing unit. Another limitation is that RemoteIE won't work on sites located behind a corporate firewall.

Readers commenting about Microsoft's RemoteIE announcement have noted that they need access to earlier builds of IE, not just the latest one, to perform their tests. That capability seems to be under consideration by Microsoft, according to its RemoteIE FAQ:

This (availability of other versions of RemoteIE) is something that is definitely on our radar. Let us know if this is something that would be valuable to you! One thing to keep in mind is that RemoteApp runs on top of Windows Server 2012 R2 so the versions available will be IE11 and IE11 in Enterprise Mode. Sorry, no IE6.

Accessing RemoteIE requires signing up for the service via this Microsoft modern.IE page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.