If you’re a Microsoft product manager and you want to make sure that the latest version of Internet Explorer gets on as many computers as possible, how do you handle the upgrade? Why not deliver it automatically?
That’s the thought process behind today’s announcement that IE7 will be offered as a High Priority update via Automatic Updates to users of Windows XP (Service Pack 2 required), Windows XP x64, and Windows Server 2003. The timeframe is still somewhat vague: Microsoft says a release candidate is due later this quarter, but will only confirm that the final release of IE7 is “planned for the 4th quarter of 2006.”
So, is everyone going to get IE7, like it or not? Nope. In a phone call with Gary Schare, Microsoft’s Director of IE Product Management, I learned the following:
- If you have Automatic Updates turned on, you’ll see a pop-up bobble in the notification area alerting you that IE7 is ready to install. Even if you have Automatic Updates set to download and install all updates automatically, this one will behave differently. You’ll be able to choose Install, Don’t Install, or Ask Me Later.
- If you’re running a version of Windows that has been flagged as “non-genuine,” you’ll get the notification but won’t be able to install IE7 until you pass validation.
- Not ready to migrate your corporate network to IE7? No problem. Download the Internet Explorer 7 Blocker Toolkit and deploy it as a group policy on your domain. Unlike the similar tool for Windows XP Service Pack 2, Microsoft says this utility won’t expire.
- Is Firefox or Opera set as your default browser? Microsoft insists that the IE7 installer will respect that decision, and recent history says you can believe them. Upgrading to the latest IE code is a smart idea even if you normally avoid IE, because so many of its components are reused in third-party applications and in system functions like Windows Update.
I’ve been critical of Microsoft’s decision to deliver non-security updates using the Automatic Updates channel, but I have no problems with this decision. The notification policy is sensible and gives Windows customers the opportunity to make their own choice about whether and when to deploy IE7. And there are sufficient security improvements in IE7 to make a legitimate case for offering it across the board.
Update 9:21AM PDT: Microsoft's IE blog has screenshots showing the installation process.