Microsoft Readies Chrome, IE 5.0 Betas

Microsoft is ramping up efforts to woo developers with Beta 2 of its interactive media graphics tool, code-named Chrome, set to enter the private testing phase, and the release of the developer-focused preview of Internet Explorer 5.0.

Chrome aims to let developers add multimedia features to HTML by exposing DirectX to HTML authors. The technology will probably be available first as an add-in feature to Windows 98 and future versions of Windows NT. Microsoft has set the first quarter of 1999 for release of the full feature set.

The result, according to Microsoft, will be media integration, high-fidelity graphics, more interactive capabilities, streaming, and hardware acceleration. Microsoft recommends heavy-duty systems to run Chrome: Pentium II, 300MHz or faster, 10MHz bus, 4MB of video memory, 64MB of RAM, and digital video disc capability.

"The initial PCs that will run the Chrome feature of Windows 98 are going to be 350MHz Pentium boxes," Brad Chase, vice president of Windows Marketing and Developer Relations, said at PC Futures '98 in St. Louis last week. "You're not going to be able to have this on a standard Pentium today."

Using Chrome, Extensible Markup Language, VBScript, JScript, C++, and other tools and formats, developers will be able to build animated 3D effects much smaller than a comparable GIF file.

Chrome is in private beta, but Explorer 5.0 was released in a "developers preview" offering for download from Microsoft's Web site. Microsoft is billing it to IT managers as a component-based version of the browser that will be easier to manage and billing it to developers as an easier browser with which to build.

A key Explorer 5.0 feature is the emergence of Dynamic HTML (DHTML) "behaviours", which lets developers separate the content of a Web page from its format by building reusable scripts that Web pages can reference. DHTML behaviour components can be written in any scripting language and will supply dynamic functionality that can be applied to any element in an HTML document through Cascading Style Sheets. Explorer will let developers build "browserless applications" that hide the Explorer interface.

"Sometimes if you've got a browser UI and you've got to show that browser, it might confuse the user who's using a 401(k) app," said Craig Beilinson, Internet Explorer product manager at Microsoft. "The browser UI goes away, and it looks like any other Win32 app."

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