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Gates: Microsoft Working on a New Version of Internet Explorer

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said Tuesday that Microsoft is developing a new version of Internet Explorer that will be available to Windows XP Service Pack 2 users before Windows "Longhorn" ships.

Gates made the IE announcement during a wide-ranging keynote about Microsoft's security plans at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. Gates also said Microsoft will develop its own anti-virus engine, its anti-spyware software will be free for consumer users of Windows, and Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2004 is released to manufacturing.

"Our primary goal is to improve security and safety for all our customers -- consumers and businesses, regardless of size -- through a balance of technology innovation, guidance and industry leadership," Gates said.

Internet Explorer 7.0

Gates' public unveiling of Internet Explorer 7.0 comes after a long period of Microsoft denying that it would update its Web browser before Windows "Longhorn" ships. But with the open-source Firefox browser eating into Microsoft's market share and the Longhorn client release not scheduled until sometime in 2006, Microsoft has clearly decided it needed to do something now.

Early details on what will be included in IE 7.0 focused entirely on security. In a news release and Q&A Microsoft emphasized the security enhancements to Internet Explorer 6.0 that came in Windows XP SP2 and vowed additional layers of security in IE 7.0. "Internet Explorer 7.0 will also provide even stronger defenses against phishing, malicious software and spyware," according to a company statement.

The beta of IE 7.0 is currently scheduled for this summer.

Anti-Virus

Gates' disclosure that Microsoft is working on an anti-virus engine ties up some loose ends of Microsoft's buying spree of small security firms. Microsoft bought GeCAD Software in 2003. Microsoft used the company's assets to develop malware removal tools, but now, Gates said, Microsoft will use the same assets to develop its own anti-virus engine. Earlier this month, Microsoft disclosed a definitive agreement to buy Sybari Software, which packages anti-virus engines to help administrators protect an enterprise by scanning messages with multiple engines and in several locations. Gates said the Microsoft anti-virus engine would be packaged with Sybari's Antigen product in the future. Sybari currently licenses anti-virus engines from Computer Associates, Sophos and Norman.

Sybari also sells anti-spam tools and products to protect Lotus Domino/Notes environments.

In an even more chilling development for anti-virus vendors, who were already meeting with Microsoft last week in the wake of the Sybari announcement, Gates said the Microsoft anti-virus engine would be integrated into a broad consumer offering by the end of this year.

Windows AntiSpyware

One of the biggest questions that arose when Microsoft released the beta of Windows AntiSpyware, a rebranding of software made by then-newly acquired Giant Company Software, was what Microsoft would charge for the finished product. Gates gave the answer Tuesday: Nothing. Gates said Windows AntiSpyware will become "part of the Windows value proposition." The product includes tools for detecting and removing spyware, along with continual monitoring of more than 50 common routes for spyware to worm its way onto a PC. Gates added that Microsoft is working on a paid, managed anti-spyware solution for business customers with more complex infrastructures.

Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2004

The RTM of ISA 2004 Enterprise Edition follows the general availability of the Standard Edition by seven months. ISA 2004 is Microsoft's second-generation application firewall, VPN and Web caching server. General availability of the Enterprise Edition is expected in March. Pricing is $5,999 per processor.

In other tidbits, Gates said:

  • Microsoft Update will go into beta in mid-March. Microsoft Update goes beyond Windows Update by scanning for patches for Microsoft Office 2003 and Exchange Server 2003.
  • Windows Update Services (WUS) is on track for general availability in the first half of this year. The successor to Software Update Services, WUS is designed to help enterprise administrators download, manage and distribute patches.
  • A 2.0 update of Microsoft Baseline Security Adviser will be released at the same time as WUS.

  • About the Author

    Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.