While Microsoft Corp. attorneys battle with the Department of Justice over the integration of the Internet Explorer browser with Windows, Microsoft is putting the final touches on the first wide-scale public beta of IE 5.0.
At the beginning of the week, Microsoft posted IE 5.0 Beta 2 on a private beta-testers-only version of its Windows Update site. Microsoft released Beta 1, which it calls its Developer Preview release, earlier this summer.
The Developer Preview included a number of new technologies under the covers, including DHTML behaviours, aimed at reducing the amount of programming needed to create Web content. Microsoft is planning to make Beta 2 widely available to a variety of testers in about three weeks, said Mike Nichols, Internet Explorer product manager. It plans to release simultaneously 16-bit and 32-bit Windows versions, as well as a Solaris version, of Beta 2. Microsoft is planning to post the final Beta 2 release on its Windows 98 Windows Update Web site, as well as on its own site, Nichols said.
Unlike the Developer Preview release, Beta 2 will include more of the look-and-feel that will be part of the final version of IE 5.0 when it ships some time next year. Beta 2 will be "more of a well-rounded product for IE professionals. It will feature a simpler UI and greater management. We are trying to architect greater simplicity throughout by making commonly used features even easier to use," Nichols said. He declined to provide specifics of any of the changes Microsoft has made since it released the Developer Preview.
Last week, at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Denver, Microsoft highlighted the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) support it is building into IE 5.0. Besides insuring that IE 5.0 is compliant with the XML 1.0 standard, Microsoft also is adding XSL (eXtensible Style Language) support to IE 5.0. XSL brings rich querying and cascading-style-sheet-like capabilities to XML.
Last week at the PDC, Microsoft officials likened the potential of XML to "do for data what HTML has done for presentation" in terms of capabilities and interoperability.