A Year Ago: Microsoft IE claim debunked

First published: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 12:04:02 GMT

When Ronald Reagan's facts were in contradiction with reality, he would later claim that he "misspoke." Microsoft Corp. misspoke this week when it asserted that Internet Explorer cannot be removed from Windows 95.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and in press releases issued this week, Microsoft officials said IE 3.0 is an integrated component of the Windows 95 operating system, as shipped in OSR (OEM Service Release) version 2. They further asserted that the removal of certain IE DLLs from OSR 2 would render the operating system unbootable.

PC Week Labs' tests have shown that this is not the case.

Using copies of OSR 2 CDs provided with OEM PCs, we merely modified four lines in one of the Windows 95 setup files to prevent IE 3.0 from installing. This modification had no impact on the operating system's capabilities or performance. Instead of the install script overwriting Windows 95 DLLs with files from IE 3.0, the original Windows 95 DLLs remained intact.

Moreover, significant OSR 2 features, like the FAT32 file system, remained intact using our modified install program.

Microsoft would likely disagree, but our experience with Windows 95 and recent tests of Windows 98 show that the operating systems are much better suited for corporate deployment without the browser.

Removing IE 4.0 from Windows 98 in particular eliminates the very features that will incur the most costs in a corporate setting: Active Desktop, channels and the Web-based Windows System Update.

The Active Desktop user interface, for example, differs significantly from Windows 95 and will require considerable user retraining. If Microsoft prevails and includes IE 4.0 with the shipping version of Windows 98, it is easy enough to disable Active Desktop using either administration tools or by modifying the user interface directly. The end result will be the same user interface as Windows 95.

With their current focus on entertainment, the channels feature afforded by IE 4.0 in Windows 98 likewise is not ready for corporate prime time.

System Update - which uses ActiveX controls to scan a Windows 98 system to determine if it has out-of-date software and drivers-is compelling in consumer applications but will be a poor match in a corporate setting. A better solution than users upgrading their own systems when they see fit would be to push the updates to all applicable clients at once, so that software versions are consistent across large numbers of clients.

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