Chromium-Based Microsoft Edge Hits a Release Milestone

The first "stable" release of Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge browser is now commercially available, Microsoft announced on Wednesday.

This new Edge browser (version 79) is based on the open source Chromium Project's engine, largely fostered by Google, which is also central to Google's Chrome browser. Microsoft kicked off this switch about a year ago and is now a Chromium Project code contributor. The older EdgeHTML-based Edge browser still exists (Microsoft now calls it "Microsoft Edge legacy"), but it's going to get replaced at some point by the new Chromium-based version.

The new Edge browser is currently available for "all supported versions of Windows and macOS in more than 90 languages" and also is available for use on Android and iOS systems, according to Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows. Microsoft had previously indicated that the new Edge browser will run on Windows 7 systems, even though that OS fell out of support on Jan. 14.

Anyone can download and manually install the new Edge browser from this page. It has a toggle button that permits downloads for Windows 10, Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 7 systems, as well as downloads for Android and iOS systems. There's a "Troubleshooting Tips" article to address problems.

The new Edge browser will inherit the legacy Edge browser's "favorites, passwords, form fill information and basic settings" automatically, according to Belfiore. It's also possible to migrate some features from Google's Chrome browser over to the new Edge browser, as described in this support document.

Consumer vs. Enterprise Edge Upgrades
Microsoft is planning to deliver the new Edge browser to Windows 10 consumer users automatically via the Windows Update service, and it'll replace the legacy EdgeHTML-based version. The timing for consumers will vary, based on Microsoft's rollout schedule, but Windows 10 Home edition or Pro edition users may be getting the new Edge browser as soon as "the coming weeks," according to a Wednesday Microsoft announcement authored by Kyle Pflug, a senior program manager lead for Edge.

Microsoft had previously indicated that the new Edge browser would arrive for anyone using automatic updates, including organizations, unless it was blocked beforehand. However, Pflug's announcement clarified that "enterprise and education users will not be automatically upgraded at this time."

For organizations, the automatic upgrade to the new Edge browser depends on the edition of Windows 10 they use. Unmanaged Windows 10 Pro and Home edition users are targeted for these automatic Edge browser upgrades. That point was clarified by Sean Lyndersay, a product manager for Microsoft Edge, in a Jan. 9 Twitter post.

Lyndersay added that Microsoft is releasing MSI files that IT pros can use to deploy the new Edge browser. Organizations can opt to get automatic updates for it or a management tool can be used to control the delivery of these browser updates, he indicated.

Here's Pflug's characterization about what to expect concerning Edge browser automatic upgrades:

Organizations are in full control of when the new Microsoft Edge will be deployed to their managed devices. Managed devices will not be automatically updated to the new Microsoft Edge. In addition to managed devices, Enterprise, Education, and Workstation Pro Edition devices will not be automatically updated at this time. Organizations that would like to block the automatic delivery of the new Microsoft Edge to devices on Home and Pro Editions with Windows Update enabled can do so either via policies or by downloading and deploying the Blocker Toolkit. Note that Internet Explorer is not impacted by our automatic rollout. 

Microsoft includes download links and information for organizations about the new Edge browser at this Edge landing page. There also an Edge documentation page, which links to a document on update policies that can be used by IT pros. There's also a downloadable Edge "deployment package" they can use to test browser deployments, according to Belfiore:

If you're an IT administrator, you will need to download an offline deployment package to pilot within your corporate environment -- the new Microsoft Edge will not automatically deploy for commercial customers. Additionally, none of the Microsoft Edge preview channels will update to the new Microsoft Edge, as they can be used side-by-side for testing and validation.

The new Edge browser can be added using various deployment tools, such as Microsoft Intune or Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (formerly "System Center Configuration Manager").

Edge Migration Support
Organizations with certain Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscriptions can get Edge browser migration assistance through Microsoft's App Assure and FastTrack partner program at "no extra charge," starting sometime in "Q1 of 2020." Typically, though, an organization will need to have licensing for 150 or more Office 365 "seats" to get FastTrack support.

Here's Belfiore's characterization of the Edge browser migration support:

FastTrack will help you deploy Microsoft Edge to your organization at no extra charge if you are a customer with an eligible subscription to Microsoft 365, Azure, or Dynamics 365. And if your sites are compatible on Internet Explorer 8 and above, Google Chrome, or legacy Microsoft Edge, then they'll work on the new Microsoft Edge. If not, contact App Assure and we'll help you fix it.

Edge Channels
The new Edge browser had been at early testing stages until this stable channel release, which marks it as being ready for use in production environments, according to Microsoft. A stable channel release of the new Edge browser gets new features "about every 6 weeks," according to Microsoft's overview document on Microsoft Edge channels.

Other channel releases are available for Edge Insider Program testing participants, such as the Canary channel (with updates arriving daily), the Dev channel (weekly updates) and the Beta channel (major updates released every six weeks). Participants just download the channel version they want to try from the program's landing page. Microsoft contends that there will be no conflicts with an Edge stable channel release if these test browsers are run on the same system.

Microsoft's overview document claims that the Beta channel release of the Edge browser is a "supported" release that's "intended for production deployment in your organization to a representative set of users."

Edge as Intune Managed Browser Replacement
Microsoft had announced back in November that the Edge browser can serve as a so-called "protected Intune browser" for organizations using the Microsoft Intune management tool. Edge will replace the "Intune Managed Browser" later this month.

"To make way for the robust experiences provided in Microsoft Edge, we will be retiring the Intune Managed Browser," the announcement indicated. "Starting on January, 27, 2020, Intune will no longer support the Intune Managed Browser."