Microsoft Corp. is giving its Web browser software its first major upgrade in years, amid signs that Internet Explorer's market share is eroding.
Enhanced security technologies, new experiences enable customers to browse the Web with confidence and ease.
After years of waiting, consumers finally got the chance todownload
a new version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The software giant releasedWindows IE 7 for Windows XP
, the latest version of the market-leading browser, with plenty of promises.
Customers can upgrade and browse the Web with confidence knowing that the new browser provides a greater level of security, makes everyday tasks easier, and works well with the Web sites they visit. IE 7 offers what Microsoft dubbed "advanced safeguards" designed to help protect against malicious software and phishing attacks.
The browser comes with the pledge of greater security, Web site compatibility and ease of use -- along with plugs from Microsoft allies, including PayPal and VeriSign, who are wholeheartedly recommending that users upgrade to the new browser.
"Security is a top priority for PayPal, and we encourage our customers using Windows to download and use Internet Explorer 7," said Michael Barrett, chief information security officer for PayPal Inc. The new Internet Explorer 7 browser has significant security enhancements, including features that help customers protect their personal information when browsing, communicating and transacting online.
The release brings Microsoft's browser more in line with competing products such as Opera Software ASA's Opera and Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox. Internet Explorer 7, or IE7, adds features such as tabbed browsing, which lets people open several Web pages without cluttering their desktop with multiple open browser windows.
Microsoft has been heavily testing the new browser, releasing five beta versions over 14 months, and has periodically offered security updates for IE6, first released in 2001.
"We listened carefully to our customers and are delivering a safer browser that makes the tasks they do every day much easier," said Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft.
Still, a lag of more than five years between official releases has cost the company. Web analysis company WebSideStory estimates that Internet Explorer's U.S. market share is about 86 percent, while Firefox commands about 11 percent of the market and smaller offerings account for the rest. Two years ago, IE had about a 93 percent share.
Safer and Easier Browsing
Security and user-friendliness are the main attraction with Microsoft's new IE release. The browser was designed in response to the changing nature of online security threats, the software maker said.
In response to the increase in and changing nature of online security threats, Internet Explorer 7 provides advanced safeguards that help protect against malicious software and phishing attacks. In Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft has helped reduce the exposure to these attacks by fortifying the browser itself and providing better information to users to assist them in making better and safer decisions online.
“Making the consumer experience more secure is paramount to maintaining consumer confidence online,” said Patrick Gauthier, senior vice president at Visa International. “Microsoft’s security improvements in Internet Explorer 7.0 will certainly further this endeavor.”
The browser is said to be "fortified" and offers better information to users to assist them in making better and safer decisions online.
"As the industry leader in Web site authentication, VeriSign believes that Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 7 browser will help increase user confidence and help make consumers more secure when using the Internet," said Tim Callan, product marketing director at VeriSign Inc.
VeriSign has always been on the leading front of offering the most current technologies to help secure consumers online, which is a concept that Microsoft brings to life with Internet Explorer 7. We encourage users to move to the new browser.
Microsoft's IE remains the most widely-used software to surf the Web, but the long gap between major releases allowed for the emergence of the company's most formidable browser competitor since it vanquished the once-dominant Netscape.
Mozilla Firefox, a free open-source browser, has steadily gained users since its introduction in 2004 with features such as an integrated search window to allow users to do a Web query without opening another page, tab browsing to toggle between different sites and a pop-up window blocker.
These features are included in the new Internet Explorer and Microsoft also touted the security improvements to the browser including color-coded warnings in the address bar to indicate whether a Web site can be trusted.
Internet Explorer 7 delivers a new looks and enhanced capabilities that make everyday tasks -- such as searching, browsing multiple sites and printing -- simple and fast.
When customers upgrade to IE 7 they will find a brand new look with enhanced capabilities designed to make searching, browsing multiple sites and printing easier. IE 7 took a page out of Firefox's book by introducing tabbed browsing.
The new tab functions of IE 7 allow you to preview your open tabs through a special page and access whichever you want with one click. The back, forward, and favorites buttons, and the address bar, are all compressed into two rows up top, along with a new search box you can customize with your choice of search engine.
However, Microsoft is trying to take the tabbing concept a step further with a new feature called Quick Tabs, which provides an "at a glance" snapshot of all open tabs on a single screen. The feature aims to make it easier for users to select and navigate sites. You would not see a menu row with standard XP options like File, Edit, or View (you can bring it back if you want). But you will see welcome new tabs--which you can drag and drop to arrange as you wish--for viewing multiple pages within one IE window.
You also get a new session-saver option: When you close the browser, you can click a box to have IE remember your open tabs, then open the same ones next time. This small but highly useful feature could gradually make a big difference in your daily browsing.
Hachamovitch acknowledged the company could have done more sooner, but he said the new version should address users' concerns.
“We did have active development,” he said. “The question is whether it was enough.”
Matt Rosoff, analyst with independent researchers Directions on Microsoft, said Internet Explorer is important to Microsoft's business because most people believe an operating system should include a way to immediately access the Web.
Still, he said, Microsoft may not have seen much reason to spend a lot of money upgrading sooner since most people continued to use the older version.
Rosoff said the new product includes enough improvements to lure back some users.
Increased Compatibility and Manageability
While Internet Explorer 7 includes significant end-user advancements, it was also designed with developers and IT managers in mind. Microsoft engineered Internet Explorer 7 for compatibility with existing Web sites by adhering to some of the most important standards for Web site development.
Internet Explorer 7 also features improved manageability for enterprises through the enhanced support of Active Directory Group Policy, which enables IT managers to easily deploy and centrally manage the browser on each of the desktops in their network.
Colin Teubner, an analyst with Forrester Research, said people already using Firefox and rival products might not immediately come back. That is partly because those users have soured on Microsoft, he said, and partly because IE7 does not break much new ground.
“A year ago Firefox was head and shoulders above Microsoft’s current offering, and I think even with IE7 it’s mostly playing catch up,” Teubner said.
It remains to be seen if Microsoft's latest release will stem the tide of users who are migrating to No. 2 browser Firefox. Analysts do not expect Firefox to lose much in the near term, though, since most corporate IT departments would not allow employees to download the new browser until it undergoes a battery of compatibility tests.
According to analysts, consumers increasingly identify the quality of an operating system with the quality of its browser and that makes a well-received browser important for Microsoft -- even if it is not sold as a separate product.
"How would it look if Microsoft did not have a good browser as part of Windows? It would not look good," said Teubner.
“It’s exciting to see Microsoft reenter the browser space after leaving for five years,” said Christopher Beard, vice president of products for Mozilla. “It’s great to see that IE is adopting the features that we popularized.”
Mozilla said it also plans to release an upgraded browser, Firefox 2, within the next few weeks.
Microsoft said it is already at work on the next version of Internet Explorer to ensure that long gaps between updates do not occur again.
The Redmond software maker also has added a box in the browser that lets people search the Internet without going to a separate Web page, much like competitors.
In a last-minute change, people who are upgrading from the previous version of the browser will now have a clearer way to choose whether they want to use Microsoft's search engine or a competing one from companies like Google Inc. or Yahoo Inc. The change announced was one of several aimed at soothing antitrust worries in Europe, where Microsoft faces a long running regulatory battle.
IE 7 is available immediately to Windows XP users and it will eventually serve as the default browser for Microsoft's much-anticipated Windows Vista operating system, due out to consumers in early 2007.
Microsoft encourages all genuine Windows customers who want a safer and easier browsing experience to download Internet Explorer 7 free of charge at http://www.microsoft.com/ie. Microsoft will also begin distributing Internet Explorer 7 as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates in November 2006. Microsoft encourages customers to install Internet Explorer 7 when notified by Automatic Updates.
Hachamovitch said that is because the product makes major security improvements. Such distribution also will provide a powerful tool in countering competition from rival browsers.
Security updates typically download with little or no user intervention, but with IE7 people will get an extra opportunity to elect not to upgrade. Also, even people using automatic updates will have to agree to let Microsoft check whether their copy of Windows is pirated before they can get IE7.
Microsoft to Provide Customer Support
Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP is now available in English and runs on Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP 64-bit Edition and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. Internet Explorer 7 will be made available in other Windows-supported languages over the coming weeks.
Microsoft will continue to provide consumers in North America running Internet Explorer 7 with unlimited phone support for installation and download issues at no charge until November 1, 2007.
Free phone support is available in English Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. PDT, and on Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PDT by calling (866) 234-6020.