"We have no control over the desktops for students, faculty or staff," says Diane Dragone, network engineer at Boise State. "We support Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari. We tell users that they should keep in mind that some university software works either exclusively or best on one of these browsers."
As a result of this strategy, Boise State gets a fair amount of tech support calls related to browser problems.
"I had a call not too long ago about a professor who was posting stuff on a Web site and he gave the URL to the students with a percent sign in the middle of it," Dragone said, adding that the URL didn't work with every browser. "It worked fine on the two browsers I tried, but you never know what operating system version, what browser version and what patch level people are using."
Michael O'Keeffe, president of Communication Strategies, a Toronto public relations firm serving high-tech clients, allows his 10 employees to use whatever software they want to use. "I just want people to get things done as quickly as possible," he says.
O'Keeffe has all four major Web browsers -- Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.5, Chrome 3 and Safari 4 -- on his desktop. He switches from one to the next depending on how fast they are working.
"I have them all on my computer at the same time. I keep circling from one to another. I get so annoyed when one of them is slow," O'Keeffe says. "With all the bars on the top of my screen -- the Google bar, the Bing bar -- the actual screen I'm looking at is getting smaller and smaller."
O'Keeffe says he uses Internet Explorer most often because he has so many Web pages bookmarked on that browser. But he says Safari works faster when he's on deadline.
"One of the reasons I switch around is that seconds really do matter in the course of my day," he says. "I'm always trying to look for the fastest way to get the information I need."
On his handheld, O'Keeffe uses the standard BlackBerry browser, but he calls the functionality dreadful. "I'd switch to an iPhone in a second because of the browser, but I don't want to spend the money," he adds.
What's next for browsers
Could a new browser shake up the market? That's what everyone is wondering about RockMelt, a start-up backed by Mark Andreessen, the cofounder of Netscape. RockMelt is supposedly working on a browser that is customized for Web 2.0 sites.
Janulaitis says it's unclear whether a new browser could have a major impact on the enterprise market.
"Right now, corporations are in the mode of cutting costs and trying to improve productivity," Janulaitis says. "It's going to be really tough to come up with an innovation that's going to get companies to switch unless you come up with a killer app."