We like to think of ourselves as logical business people. In truth, many decisions we make are based on emotion. (I wore a green tie yesterday for St. Patrick's Day, even though I suspect green ranks in the 34th percentile of color choices most associated with power and influence among males ages 40 to 50 in the technology information sector.)
For years, many have chosen Netscape's browser product as much from emotion as from logic. It's fun to support an upstart underdog with bright ideas and a pioneering concept.
But I had an advance look at Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5. (Now available from ZD Downloads) And I've decided emotion be damned! I'm going to do what makes more sense logically. And I think right now, IE 5 is going to be a better business tool. With these caveats: I won't vouch for the stability of the first IE 5 release; it's bound to have bugs. And I'm sure Netscape will make a valiant attempt to leapfrog IE 5 with its next release this summer.
Even so, here are the things that have me leaning toward Internet Explorer 5: Speed: IE 5 renders things a little faster than Navigator. More importantly, better caching along with interface improvements make things seem faster from the Web surfer's perspective.
Ease of use: IE 5 has auto-everything. Auto type-ahead. Auto correct. Auto search. Even auto configure, which lets you automatically detach your laptop from a network and use it on a phone line instead.
Convenience: IE 5 has a cool new radio bar that sits right under the address bar and includes play/stop and mute buttons, a volume dial and a drop-down menu. Tighter integration between the browser and Hotmail, Microsoft's free Web-based email, is another key improvement. (And don't miss the new feature that lets mobile users download Hotmail messages in Outlook Express for working offline. It's awesome.)
Choice: Through deals with Alexa, Bloomberg and others, a new Web Accessories initiative lets IE 5 users receive information (email, stock quotes, news) from other Web sites. The pushed content shows up in a separate browser pane even as the user surfs the Web.
Don't get me wrong. Browser choice should depend on your needs and preferences. Netscape's latest browser has plenty to like, too:
Netscape ships with RealPlayer (which Microsoft refuses to do for political reasons). Navigator offers stronger links to valuable Web services -- key word search, address book, calendar among them. Navigator has instant messaging, for those who want to know when friends are online.
That's today. When Netscape shifts to Gecko -- its new rendering engine -- it may gain an edge in rendering speed. For now, I've decided to let my head rule my heart. If you're a business person, I think you should take a serious look at IE 5, too.