Microsoft Launches IE7 For Windows XP

Windows Vista

Available for download now, the IE7 Web browser upgrade offers users many new security features and better protection. It also features tabbed browsing; an enhanced user interface for searching, surfing and printing; support for RSS feeds; and improved compatibility with Web sites, according to Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.

IE7 will be automatically downloaded on Nov. 1 to all customers that have Automatic Update turned on, Microsoft said.

Internet Explorer has been a favorite target of hackers. But in IE7, Microsoft hardened the code and included features that reduce malware, prevent phishing and automatically block ActiveX controls from downloading. With the fortified security, VeriSign and PayPal have endorsed IE7.

"As a developer, IE7 gives us a more robust security model to live in," said Tim Huckaby, CEO of Interknowlogy, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and application developer in Carlsbad, Calif. "Microsoft has finally taken all the great features of its competitors in IE7, and at the same time, they have rebuilt the code base to get all the security improvements. The result is a release of IE that is going to do some serious damage in the quest for browser market share."

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Besides stronger security, the IE7 for XP release sports a Vista-like interface and enhanced support for Microsoft's Active Directory Group Policy, which will enable IT managers to deploy and manage the browser on desktops more easily.

IE7, too, brings a new feature pioneered by the rival Mozilla Firefox browser: tabbed browsing. Microsoft said IE7's tabbed browsing allows users to view multiple sites in one window and easily switch from one Web site to another. Quick Tabs, another new feature, offers a snapshot of all open tabs on one screen.

Microsoft said the same browser upgrade will be integrated into the Vista OS, which is slated to ship to all users in January. Yet the Vista browser will offer additional features, such as parental controls and user account control, the company said.

The process of upgrading to IE7 is relatively simple, and the browser's improved Web site compatibility will make the experience smoother, said Margaret Cobb, group product manager for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. "I don't think it will be disruptive at all," Cobb said. "It's a nice preview to the features in Vista."

With IE7, solution providers can create and add RSS feeds for their customers and implement better security. But Microsoft warned channel partners to ensure that IE7 is compatible with customers' line-of-business applications before they deploy it. That also should include a compatibility check before the automatic update of the browser goes out on Nov. 1, or partners could just turn off the Automatic Update feature, the company said.

Although many partners lauded the improved security in IE7, at least one skeptic said he's not sure that the upgraded browser is as impenetrable to hackers as claimed. "I have no opinion yet, but the IE7 beta was pretty bad. And I'm not sure that the customers will be clamoring for more problems," said one partner, who requested anonymity.