Microsoft Unleashes IE 7 Browser for Windows XP

After years of waiting, consumers on Wednesday finally got the chance to download a new version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The software giant released Windows IE 7 for Windows XP, the latest version of the market-leading browser, with plenty of promises.

The browser comes with the pledge of greater security, Web site compatibility and ease of use — along with plugs from Microsoft allies, including PayPal and VeriSign, who are wholeheartedly recommending that users upgrade to the new browser.

“We listened carefully to our customers and are delivering a safer browser that makes the tasks they do every day much easier,” said Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft.

Safer and Easier?

Security and user-friendliness are the main attraction with Microsoft’s new IE release. The browser was designed in response to the changing nature of online security threats, the software maker said.

IE 7 offers what Microsoft dubbed “advanced safeguards” designed to help protect against malicious software and phishing attacks. The browser is said to be “fortified” and offers better information to users to assist them in making better and safer decisions online.

“VeriSign believes that Microsoft’s new Internet Explorer 7 browser will help increase user confidence and help make consumers more secure when using the Internet,” said Tim Callan, product marketing director at VeriSign. “We encourage users to move to the new browser.”

When customers upgrade to IE 7 they will find a brand new look with enhanced capabilities designed to make searching, browsing multiple sites and printing easier. IE 7 took a page out of Firefox’s book by introducing tabbed browsing. Tabs allow users to view multiple sites in a single browser window and easily switch from one site to another.

However, Microsoft is trying to take the tabbing concept a step further with a new feature called Quick Tabs, which provides an “at a glance” snapshot of all open tabs on a single screen. The feature aims to make it easier for users to select and navigate sites.

Usability Hurdles

IE 7 is unquestionably a major upgrade that is safer and more secure than its predecessors, but JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox is concerned that a few too many security prompts and warnings may detract from the usability of the browser.

“You get a warning for pop-up block. You get a warning that something wants to download. You get a warning about Active X controls that need to be installed. You are trying to make a purchase and you get a warning that the content is coming from unprotected and protected sites,” Wilcox told TechNewsWorld. “All these warnings increase the complexity and the potential confusion. You don’t see that with Firefox.”

All that said, Wilcox is quick to follow with a little praise for Microsoft. IE 7 is one of the best browsers a consumer could use, he said, calling it a “commendable effort” to balance safety with usability.

Keeping IT in Mind

IE 7 was also designed with developers and IT managers in mind, according to Microsoft. The firm engineered IE 7 for compatibility with existing Web sites by adhering to some of the most important standards for Web site development.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft’s latest release will stem the tide of users who are migrating to No. 2 browser Firefox. Analysts don’t expect Firefox to lose much in the near term, though, since most corporate IT departments won’t allow employees to download the new browser until it undergoes a battery of compatibility tests.

Microsoft will provide free and unlimited phone support for IE 7 installation and download issues until November 1, 2007, to customers in North America.

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