Microsoft wages new war with Internet Explorer 6 launch

Browser freezes out Netscape and Apple... but at least it was early...

Browser freezes out Netscape and Apple... but at least it was early...

Microsoft has launched Internet Explorer 6 on an unsuspecting public, almost two months ahead of schedule. Microsoft has confirmed the new product will not support Netscape plug-ins - including Quicktime - but will instead standardise on its own proprietary system for plug-in applications, called ActiveX. The new version of Microsoft's web browser was not slated for general release until the launch of the XP operating system at the end of October. However, with the XP code now shipped to PC-makers Microsoft has decided to let users get their hands on the application early. The IE6 application is now available to download from the Microsoft website. It will not feature the new XP-style GUI makeover, which will only be available once XP is launched. Neil Laver, XP product marketing manager for Microsoft, said IE6 has a number of new features, including better privacy, beefed-up reliability and new ways of viewing content within a browser. However, the release has already been criticised for its failure to support Netscape plug-ins such as the widely used Quicktime media player. Laver said the technology had been taken out because "Netscape plug-ins were not massively used, and the end experience was poor". Judy Jerome, analyst at Bloor Research said Microsoft's battle with Apple over the small amount of the desktop OS market it doesn't already own was more of a motivation. She said the policy was pretty much standard procedure for the Redmond giant. "They're not going to say they're not supporting it because they don't like Apple and that they want to destroy the competition, because it makes them look bad," she said. "But this kind of tactic is just how Microsoft does business - honestly I'd have been surprised if they had supported the Quicktime plug-in." Microsoft's browser policy has traditionally caused controversy ever since it illegally bundled Internet Explorer in with its Windows operating system, prompting the government to take it to court for anti-competitive behaviour. Last month Microsoft said for the first it would allow PC makers to put other browsers on machines with XP pre-installed. Today's news could well serve to open the old wound. The new browser is available at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie