Microsoft easily beat its self-imposed July 31 deadline by last night making available a second preview of Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0, adding push broadcasting capabilities and US Active Channel content based on material supplied by over 250 providers.
Active Channels will allow data to be supplied directly to users' desktops with offline caching and choice of ways to view content. The firm will supply details of UK-specific content partners by the end of this week.
Also new are a Security Zones feature which allow users and managers to fence off (or provide limited access to) areas of Internet and intranet sites, and final versions of desktop videoconferencing software NetMeeting 2.0, NetShow video streaming and FrontPad Web site authoring tools.
"What you'll see with Preview 2 is that it's more usable and feature complete," said Martin Gregory, Internet marketing manager for Microsoft in the UK.
"This is the version that a lot of corporations have been waiting for in terms of evaluation. The key thing that is left at this stage is performance tuning. We've got a bit of work to do to make it faster. We're ahead of schedule and we still plan to have a full version of IE 4.0 for the end of the summer."
Asked whether "end of summer" equated to end of August, Gregory said: "Within a month of that, anyway."
Also available now is IE 4.0 Preview 1 for Windows 3.1; a Preview 1 for Macintosh is scheduled for delivery by the end of July, and a Unix Preview 1 is pencilled in for the end of 1997.