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Microsoft Ships Beta 2 of IE7 for XP

Microsoft on Monday evening released Beta 2 for Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP Service Pack 2, an overhaul of the browser featuring enhanced security and a redesigned user interface.

While remaining close-lipped about a U.S. ship date, the company did say in a statement that it expects to ship final code in the second half of 2006.

At this point, company officials are urging more technical users to try the new browser in production environments. “This build is really solid [and] we think it is ready for technology enthusiasts,” says Margaret Cobb, a product manager for IE 7.

Beta 1 of IE 7 began last summer in concert with the beginning of the Windows Vista beta test cycle. The company shipped an IE7 Beta 2 “preview” in January and a “feature complete” interim build to some testers last month.

That puts IE7 still on track for release in the second half of the year, Cobb says. Although IE7 on Vista is delayed because Vista itself is delayed, IE7 on XP is not. This beta also includes a version that will run on 64-bit editions of XP and Windows Server 2003.

To encourage users to try IE7 in beta form now, Microsoft is offering unlimited free phone support. The company also created a new Web site dedicated to making hundreds of free IE add-ons available at www.ieaddons.com.

The company’s aggressiveness in encouraging users to the IE7 beta comes as IE encounters its first competitive threat in years in the open source Firefox browser. As of the close of 2005, IE slid to 85 percent market share compared to nearly 10 percent for Firefox.

IE7 has a redesigned user interface, including tabbed browsing and the ability to save groups of tabs, enhanced search capabilities, support for Really Simple Syndication (RSS) data feeds, and new security features.

Users interested in trying out the new Beta 2 release of IE7 for Windows XP can find it at www.microsoft.com/ie.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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