The long-awaited upgrade to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, the version that will become an interface for Windows, will ship on September 30, the software company has confirmed.
Microsoft has also announced a "Reserve Your Copy Early" programme for Explorer 4.0, in which users can order a CD-ROM of the browser for a US$4.95 fee. The browser will be available for free download from Microsoft's Web site, but company officials say they are offering the CD-ROM -- which will be mailed on September 30 -- in anticipation of heavy download demand.
The browser available at the end of September is for Windows 95 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0 platforms. Microsoft has promised Explorer 4.0 for Windows 3.x and the Macintosh platforms 30 to 90 days later, and for Unix by the end of 1997.
With a "the Web the way you want it" theme, Microsoft has promoted Explorer 4.0 as a "best-of-breed" browser for months. The browser will serve as an interface for the Windows operating platform, meaning uses can access their applications and hard disk through the browser and move straight from the Internet to their hard disk and back again.
That tight Web integration raised concerns about security earlier this year, with the discovery of flaws that allowed access over the Internet to hard disks. The security flaws prompted Microsoft to take extra security steps with the browser, chiefly with "security zones" that let users and administrators assign different security levels.
Explorer 4.0's features include Active Channels and Webcasting push technology, as well as support for the Channel Definition Format push standard Microsoft is promoting, and Dynamic HTML. Explorer 4.0 also includes NetMeeting and Outlook Express for messaging and collaboration.
Announced more than a year ago, Explorer 4.0 went into its first beta period in early April. The second preview was released in mid-July, and more than one million users downloaded it in less than 10 days, Explorer product manager Chris Carper says, prompting Microsoft to offer the final version on CD-ROM.
"We are expecting a very large hit," Carper says. "We've been planning for it, and we have the capability to handle it, but users also can go up and order it early."
Microsoft plans to tout Explorer 4.0 to Internet site builders and developers at its "World Wide Live" conference on the Internet and in movie theaters on Thursday.
The September 30 release date means that Microsoft is a bit late in shipping Explorer 4.0. The Redmond, Washington, company had promised the browser by the end of the US summer.