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Microsoft takes struggling Edge browser to iOS, Android

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 9, 2017
The iOS version of Edge uses the same WebKit engine that powers Apple's Safari, while the Android Edge is based on the Blink engine Google maintains for Chrome.

edge for android and ios
Credit: Microsoft 

Microsoft on Thursday announced that it had created iOS and Android versions of its struggling Edge browser, and would make both available to users for testing.

The company cast the Edge variations as critical to flesh out the Windows 10 feature known as "Continue on PC," which will debut with the Fall Creators Update, aka 1709 upgrade, set to begin shipping Oct. 17. The feature links a specific phone - or tablet - to a Windows 10 personal computer, then automatically hands off certain in-progress tasks, such as a half-finished Office document opened in a browser, from one device to the other.

"What makes Microsoft Edge [on iOS or Android] really stand out is the ability to continue on your PC, which enables you to immediately open the page you're looking at right on your PC - or save it to work on later," Joe Belfiore, a Microsoft executive, wrote in a post to a company blog.

Continue on PC roughly resembles the "Handoff" feature - and more generally, something called "Continuity" - that Apple introduced in 2014 with OS X Yosemite on Macs and iOS 8 on iPhones and iPads.

"Consumers aren't going to care much about this, but [enterprise employees] working on Office 365 that have a meeting, they can grab their phone and fix [a document] in the car or on a plane," said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates. "That could end up being a big deal."

What might be only a minor convenience for a consumer, Gold added, could be a selling point for Windows 10 in the enterprise. And the latter is the customer category that Microsoft cares the most about: The enterprise is where it bags the bulk of its revenue.

"Microsoft is all about the enterprise market," Gold continued.

Edge goes mobile on iOS and Android 
Microsoft's Edge variations for iOS and Android are designed to work with a Windows 10 feature known as "Continue on PC." Credit: Microsoft

Neither of the new Edge browsers was built atop the rendering engine Microsoft uses for Edge on Windows 10 - until now, the only supported OS. Instead, the iOS Edge relies on the same WebKit engine that powers Apple's Safari, while the Android Edge is based on the Blink engine that Google maintains for Chrome. In the case of iOS, using WebKit is a requirement for third-party browsers if they're to be hosted in Apple's App Store, the only sanctioned software mart.

In a different company blog, Sean Lyndersay, principal program manager for Edge, failed to mention that limitation, implying that Microsoft had a choice in the matter and picked WebKit on iOS because it was "the core web platform technology" on Apple's operating system. At the same time, Lyndersay felt it necessary to quash any potential talk that these moves presaged Microsoft abandoning its own EdgeHTML engine.


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