'It's Here' Says Microsoft; Launches IE 7 Final, Finally

Microsoft has launched the first major update to Internet Explorer in five years, and posted the new browser for Windows XP to a download site.

October 19, 2006

3 Min Read
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Microsoft on Wednesday launched the first major update to Internet Explorer in five years, and posted the new browser for Windows XP to a download site.

IE 7, which has was announced in February 2005 by chairman Bill Gates, has been touted by the company as a significant update in the areas of security and usability. The interface has been streamlined and tabs have been added to compete with rivals such as Mozilla's Firefox and Opera's flagship browser. On the security front, IE 7 adds anti-phishing defenses as well as additional features to control ActiveX controls, which historically have been a pain point for Microsoft's browser.

IE 7 for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 can be downloaded from here.

"It's here, it's final, and we're excited," said Margaret Cobb, the group product manager for the browser.

The most controversial aspect of IE 7 has been Microsoft's decision to push the update to all users who have Automatic Updates enabled. Although users can reject IE 7 -- and continue using their current edition of Internet Explorer -- Microsoft will begin rolling out the browser as a "High priority" update next month. In July, when Microsoft offered up a toolkit to indefinitely postpone IE 7's installation, it justified using Automatic Updates, a mechanism for providing patches to Windows, because of the new browser's security implications."We've told enterprise customers to be ready [for IE 7] by Nov. 1," said Cobb. "It won't begin Nov. 1, but they should be ready."

The IE 7 update will also not add to the burden of Microsoft's monthly security patch delivery, scheduled for Nov. 14, promised Cobb. "We won't do it on Patch Tuesday."

Microsoft will also throttle back IE 7's delivery to keep the server load under control, she added. "We're starting with English, and then moving to the localized versions as they come available. At first we'll run it very slow, to a low percentage of users." After assessing the impact, Microsoft will increase the amount of traffic from the servers. "I'll have a 10 a.m. call every day to go over the impact on support or services," said Cobb, who can then order downloads to be scaled back or increased.

It will take as long as three months to deliver IE 7 to all users worldwide. "As each localized language comes online, we'll wait a few weeks after posting it for download before delivering it through Automatic Updates."

Microsoft has made one change late in the game. After IE 7 has installed, it will tell the user which search engine is the current default -- grabbed from IE 5 or IE 6 -- and then ask if they want to make a new choice. The process is similar to, but not identical, to the choice that Windows Vista users will face when they upgrade from Windows XP.

"We added this after RC3," said Cobb. "We're letting users know what engine is the default, and asking them if they want to keep it or do they want to switch. We're also going to be supporting IE 7."Beginning Thursday, Microsoft will open a free, toll-free support line for IE 7. The help desk will be manned Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. PDT, and on weekends from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PDT.

Internet Explorer's chief rival, Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox browser, is nearing the final release of version 2.0. Currently on Release Candidate 3 (RC3), Firefox 2.0 should make it out the door before the end of the month.

Users who want to block the download and installation of IE 7 through Automatic Updates, as well as the Windows Update and Microsoft Update sites should steer here, where they can retrieve the Internet Explorer 7 Blocker Toolkit.

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