MS owns up to IE problems, plans for future

Microsoft today owned up to problems with Internet Explorer 4.0 and vowed to fix them.

The firm said that it had noted complaints regarding the installation, security and accessibility for sensory impaired users, and claimed it had fixed the first and last of those problems with the IE 4.01 release.

Yusuf Mehdi, director of marketing for the application and Internet client group at Microsoft, said that Netscape is still deployed on more desktops but claimed Microsoft has more Fortune 500 companies that have standardised on its browser. However, he admitted Microsoft had lost out in some businesses because of the lack of final versions of Macintosh and Unix clients and through failure to support some security standards.

Mehdi also said that the Active Desktop Web/desktop integration feature of IE 4.0 wasn't being used by some users. "The biggest knock on Active Desktop is that it requires more RAM; there is a performance hit. You need maybe 8Mb RAM more to run it."

Mehdi said there had been "mixed results" for publishers who had contributed to the Active Channels Web broadcast option. "For everyone who has seen five to ten per cent more traffic through, there is one who says 'I haven't seen any difference'. Push has not been the magical thing that drives traffic. Some publishers were sending 20Kb files and some people were sending down 4Mb downloads. Clearly you need less than 1Mb for users on 28.8Kbps lines."

Improvements are currently being considered. Among options is the possible combination of Favourites and Active Channels views. For Web site administrators, almost certain to come soon is the ability to track offline hits, including advertising banners in ASP (Active Server Page) files; better authoring tools including a version of FrontPage that supports the Channel Definition Format (CDF) and the ability to automatically generate CDF files.

However, don't expect to see Internet Explorer 5.0 pre-release software anytime soon; Microsoft wants to call an end to the constant flow of browser releases that has been a boon for freebie software collectors but has proven a headache for IT managers and has led to a plethora of bugs and security loopholes.

"The pace of the browser releases is too fast for IT managers, and for consumers too," Mehdi said. "They're demanding less releases. There's more of a requirement to produce a better product. There won't be a new release of IE for at least a year and if anything [time between releases] will lengthen after that. We're going to be more methodical about how we produce the product."

The next IE release is likely to concentrate on improving ease of use, Mehdi added. "It's more important than [changes to] code size and speed. We're just scratching the surface of ease of use. You shouldn't have to learn where the Print Manager is to get a good print job."