There's no escaping just how critical a role the browser plays in the dawning age of cloud computing. For all intents and purposes, the browser is effectively the new desktop operating system, and IBM evidently does not want to be held hostage by any one company's platform -- hence, Big Blue's decision to adopt Firefox as its default browser internally.
IBM's opting for Firefox clearly signals the loosening of Microsoft's grip on the desktop. Does IBM's choice also signal -- with HTML5 now calling the role of some browser plug-ins into question -- that Firefox is a safer bet than Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome?
In today's Web -- and arguably in the ideal cloud-computing world -- a user is able to access any Web service regardless of browser choice. We're accustomed to taking broad technology support in all the leading browsers for granted. Yet consider that already we're seeing browser developers choosing sides in the battle between Flash and HTML5 -- and effectively limiting our choices.
For now, that doesn't have significant implications on the enterprise, but it does set a precedent. IBM may be thinking that Microsoft, Apple, and Google have too much skin in the cloud game to be the most trustworthy browser provider. Better for the company to puts its faith in Mozilla's long-standing commitment to open standards and open source -- not to mention an extensible, plug-in architecture.
IBM's sanctioning of Firefox should also help spread the word that Internet Explorer isn't the world's only centrally manageable browser. IBM will be managing Firefox across Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.