On February 15, 2005, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates publicly revealed during his RSA Conference 2005 keynote address that his company would denounce its previous plans and ship a separate major update to Internet Explorer (IE) before Longhorn. Until that speech, Microsoft representatives were adamant that the security enhancements they had added to the version of IE in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2, see my review) would be it until Longhorn.
Before the Gates speech, there were indications, however, that Microsoft was reevaluating its stance on IE. First, the open source Mozilla Firefox Web browser, released in November 2004, was proving to be enormously popular with tech-savvy Web users, and its garnered over 25 million downloads in 100 days, grabbing about 5 percent of the Web browser market. Second, Microsoft began discussing the possibility that it would at least provide minor updates to IE before Longhorn. In a discussion with Gary Schare, the Director of Windows Product Management at Microsoft at the time, I was told that the company was examining whether it could add features to IE 6 in XP SP2 via its component add-on capabilities. Previously, MSN had used this functionality to good effect with its MSN Toolbar Suite (see my preview).
Then came the Gates keynote. Here’s what Gates said about this major IE update, which will be called Internet Explorer 7. "What we’ve decided to do is a new version of Internet Explorer, this is IE 7, and it adds a new level of security," he said. "We will be able to put this into beta by early in the summer [of 2005]." Gates then noted that IE 7 would only be made available to users of XP SP2, and not to those still using earlier Windows versions like Windows 2000 or 9x. "Of course, as well, we’ll include these capabilities in the next release of Windows scheduled for 2006, which is our Longhorn release."
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Wow, some amazing stuff to look forward to. It is also interesting to note that, there won’t be an Outlook Express 7, since it has been at a stand still for years in terms of development as Paul mentioned in the article. I think of course a bulk of the security issues we continue to face occurs through e-mail and Outlook Express is gateway, so anyway to tighten security should not stop at the web browser. Other interesting information of course is tabbed browsing which is said to be coming, that should let us existing IE users sit a little taller in our chairs. I can’t wait, I hope they make this a public beta.