Microsoft Announces Distribution Plans for IE 7

Today, Microsoft announced how it plans to distribute the standalone version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7, which it will make compatible with Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Though IE 7 won't be available until the fourth calendar quarter of 2006, the company wants to prepare customers for the release and explain how it will happen.

On a positive note, Microsoft has obviously learned from past mistakes: This announcement comes well before the final release of the product and discuses methods individuals and enterprises can use to prevent PCs from automatically installing IE 7. This lead time will give enterprises the time they need to decide what to do about using IE 7.

"We will be distributing Internet Explorer 7 as a high-priority update on Automatic Updates," Gary Schare, the director of Windows product management at Microsoft, told me in a briefing earlier this week. However, Schare said that IE 7 wouldn't be packaged like most high-priority updates. Individuals will see a pop-up balloon alerting them about the release and giving them an option to learn more, ask later, or not be asked again. "It's an explicit opt-in with no default choice," Schare added. "And it will be uninstallable later, if they want to go back \[to IE 6\]."

For enterprises, Microsoft is shipping today a free Internet Explorer 7 Blocker Toolkit, which will help companies block the delivery of IE 7 to users' desktops. The IE 7 Blocker Toolkit includes a Group Policy template and an executable script. Best of all, it won't expire like the similar tool for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) does, because IE 7 doesn't change the XP support life cycle. "XP SP2 was the support life cycle replacement for XP SP1, so we had to build an expiration date into the blocker tool," Schare told me. "But IE 7 does not replace IE 6 in the support life cycle."

As for the schedule, Schare told me that Microsoft expects to ship a final pre-release version of IE 7--Release Candidate 1 (RC1)--sometime in the current quarter (by the end of September). Microsoft still plans to ship the final version of IE 7 by the end of the year.

TAGS: Windows 8
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