Microsoft today tentatively added a sliver of flesh to its Internet Explorer strategy, spelling out the content delivery and "channels" characteristics it hopes will take it past Netscape's Navigator once and for all.
The firm will next month release a first beta of Internet Explorer 4.0, building in the vaunted Active Desktop, a way of combining the client desktop with Web browsing and live content presentation. Initially available for Windows 95 and NT, IE 4.0 will follow for all platforms currently supported: Windows 3.1, Macintosh, HP-UX and Solaris.
Microsoft showed possible look and feel approaches to the Active Desktop, suggesting that features familiar from today's Web browsers could extend their domains to cover the whole of the desktop. A user could skip back from a Web page to work in progress on a Word document via a Back button, for example, or add a presentation slide to a Favourite Places list. Also, users may be able to automatically cycle through a pane view of sites in which they have indicated a general interest.
However, the company was at pains to stress that it is too early in the day to say whether such features will make it to the finished product when it arrives by the end of June after "two or three" beta versions.
Certain to debut will be a "channels" approach, analogous to that in the Microsoft Network, whereby favourite areas can be easily grouped under individual buttons.