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March 11, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:55pm


By CBR Staff Writer

What Microsoft Corp is calling a Platform Preview of Internet Explorer 4.0 finally began shipping last week (CI No 3,092) with a handful of minor surprises that Microsoft managed to keep quiet. Internet Explorer 4.0, which is going to be both a browser and the new graphical user interface for Windows 95, will have a built-in miniature Web page authoring module dubbed FrontPad plus a copy of Microsoft’s Personal Web Server. FrontPad is a cut-down version of FrontPage97, and since Internet Explorer 4.0 will be free the idea is obviously a marketing device to turn Internet Explorer users into paying FrontPage customers. Likewise, the electronic mail and newsgroup client in Internet Explorer 4.0 is a truncated version of the vaunted Outlook electronic mail, calendaring and contact management program inside Office 97. Microsoft, of course, hopes Outlook Express will whet user appetites for Office 97 if they don’t have it, or for an upgrade if they have an earlier Office version. Microsoft has also built in an off-line Web page viewer and a routine to search out users’ favourite Web sites and notify them if a page changes. There’ll even be a pull feature so a browser can go online in the middle of the night and download specified pages for off-line perusal the next morning. Internet Explorer 4.0 will ship with the NetMeeting conference client and NetShow multimedia client and of course full ActiveX and Java support, creating what Microsoft these days calls the Active Desktop. While the extras polish Internet Explorer 4.0 – some were no doubt added to counter features in Netscape Communications Corp’s Communicator – there are few surprises left in the really radical part of Internet Explorer 4.0, the integration of the browser functions and graphical user interface with the operating system. Microsoft will also include an option that enables Internet Explorer 4.0 to be used just as a browser, rather than be mated directly to the operating system. Those willing to venture into the beta realm will be able to browse their hard drive, directories and files just as if they were hopping around Internet sites. The Platform Preview won’t go to the general public right away, just selected testers, but if history is any indicator pirate copies should start popping up within hours of its release. A public showing is scheduled for the end of the month, provided no show-stopper bugs show up by then. Microsoft’s being careful these days about promising a final release date since Internet Explorer 4.0 slipped from last autumn to December to the first quarter of 1997, including an abandoned beta version, but insiders say Microsoft is hell-bent on a second-quarter release, most likely around June 30.

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