Although Microsoft may continue to provide security and performance updates, no major new releases are planned, Microsoft Product Manager Jessica Sommer told CNET News.com. Sommer said that, with the emergence of Apple's Safari browser, Microsoft felt that customers were better served by using Apple's browser, noting that Microsoft does not have the access to the Macintosh operating system that it would need to compete.
"No IE 6 is planned," Sommer said in a telephone interview. "Safari is turning into a better answer for (Apple) customers."
On the Windows side, Microsoft has said that it will stop development of standalone versions of Internet Explorer, instead evolving the browser as part of future updates to the Windows OS.
Apple has released several test versions of Safari, but the final 1.0 version of the browser has not yet appeared. An Apple representative was not immediately available for comment.
Microsoft's decision creates a conundrum for Mac users seeking maximum compatibility. Many Web sites are designed to work best or, in some cases, only with Internet Explorer. Although Apple has worked hard to gain compatibility with the vast majority of sites, it is not clear what the effect will be from the most commonly used browser abandoning the Mac market.
Overall, Internet Explorer has more than 95 percent of the browser market, according to market researcher WebSideStory, followed by Netscape with somewhere above 3 percent, and all others hovering below 1 percent.
Microsoft plans to keep the existing versions of IE available on its Mac Web site. The company is releasing a minor upgrade--IE version 5.2.3--to the OS X browser on Monday. Although a minor update to the Mac OS 9 version of the browser will also come within the next month, it is unclear how many releases will follow. "It depends, as things come up," Sommer said.
The company had agreed to provide Mac versions of the browser--as well as its Office suite--as part of a five-year deal with Apple that has now lapsed. Microsoft said in April 2002 that it would continue to develop Mac software but would only commit to one version at a time and would make its decisions based on whether such products make business sense.
However, Sommer said that the company is moving ahead with the next version of Office.
"We are absolutely still on track with Office," she said. "We're working on the next version of Office. We are working on the next version of Virtual PC for the Mac."
Sommer would not say, however, when those programs will arrive. Microsoft acquired Virtual PC--which lets Windows programs run on the Mac--and other assets of Connectix in February.
Sommer said that no one was laid off as part of the IE move. However, the program manager that headed the development of Mac IE, Jimmy Grewal, is leaving the company.
"It's time for a change," Grewel said in a posting on his personal Web site. "With the end of development of Mac Internet Explorer, I will be leaving Microsoft and moving on to pursue other interests back in Dubai."