Limits of next Internet Explorer reveals new browser opportunities

Some of the companies that have standardized on Internet Explorer as their Web browser may find themselves in a dilemma when Microsoft releases Version 7.0, which is due later this year.

IE7 will be available only for the new Windows Vista operating system, also scheduled for release this year, and for Windows XP systems that have Microsoft’s Service Pack 2 update installed on them.

That could make Firefox appealing to Windows 2000 users who want the features of a modern browser, said Mike Shaver, a technology strategist at Mozilla Corp., the development and distribution arm of the Mozilla Foundation. “Every time someone decides what kind of software they want to run, we have an opportunity,” he said.

Mike Askew, senior vice-president of the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology at Fidelity Investments , said the release of IE7 may also present a prime opportunity for companies to reassess their browser environment. For example, he noted that Fidelity will have to do some tweaking and tuning of internal applications to work with the new version of IE. “If there’s anything that we can do at the same time to be a little bit more browser-independent, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Gary Schare, director of IE product management at Microsoft, said Firefox “got a lot of people focused on the browser after a period of time where nobody really thought much interesting was happening” with the technology. But Microsoft isn’t worried that users will view the launch of IE7 as a good excuse to consider defecting to Firefox, Schare said.

“We can ask why do they need an alternative?” he said. “What is their real reason for going to the new browser? And the answer is, I don’t think a corporation can sit down with me and come up with a single reason why they would need to go to Firefox instead of using IE.”

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