US Report: Microsoft shows off IE 5.0

NEW ORLEANS - Microsoft is providing a glimpse of its Internet Explorer 5.0 browser to attendees of its TechEd 98 conference here.

This may be the first time that the company is demonstrating its new browser publicly but Microsoft has shown early releases of IE 5.0 to selected developers under non-disclosure agreements in recent months.

On the TechEd show floor the company is demonstrating what it calls a "pre-beta" version of IE 5.0. A full-fledged technical beta is a few weeks off from entering wide-scale beta test say Microsoft officials. The first beta of IE 5.0 is also slated to ship as part of NT 5.0 Workstation Beta 2 when Microsoft releases it in July or August.

IE 5.0 looks almost identical to IE 4.0. It will allow users and developers to download selectively various components thus enabling the browser to adapt more easily to systems with small amounts of memory. Officials said Microsoft has not decided whether or not to make Microsoft Java Virtual Machine one of the components that users will be able to omit.

Most of the other IE 5.0 changes are under the covers and are meant to appeal to developers working with the platform. These include enhancements to Dynamic HTML, persistent storage of web pages, improvements to the Favourites in terms of organisation and compatibility with Netscape's Bookmarks feature and toolbar customisation capability.

A key developer-oriented enhancement to IE 5.0 will be a technology Microsoft is calling "behaviours."

Behaviours will separate authoring and programming functions and allow web designers and content providers to focus on their specialities, rather than having to program. Microsoft is using scriptlets to componentise the behaviours which are likely to be developed by both Microsoft and its third-party partners allowing them to be added directly to HTML pages.

Microsoft plans to merge its Internet Client software developer kit (SDK) and Site Builder online site in conjunction with the release of IE 5.0. As a result, IE users and developers will be able to obtain software patches, updates and help via the Web rather than having to wait for Microsoft to ship CDs.