Microsoft plans to offer a completed Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1 this week, more than four months after it delivered the browser for Windows 95 and Windows NT.
The release is significant to Microsoft shops with users who have not all been upgraded to Windows 95, observers say. By Microsoft's account, nearly 40% of Internet users are still using Windows 3.1.
Microsoft attributes the lag time in bringing the Windows 3.1 version of Explorer to market to developing it from a 16-bit code base, rather than recompiling the 32-bit version. Doing so let Explorer 3.0 run efficiently on low-end computers such as 386SX PCs with 4Mb of RAM, according to Dave Fester, a Microsoft Explorer product manager.
Microsoft says the browser's small footprint will give it an advantage over Netscape Navigator among IS managers who must leverage their company's existing hardware base yet deliver corporate intranet functionality to all users.
Not surprisingly, Netscape officials are refuting that claim, countering that Navigator 3.0 runs fine on low-end hardware.
Unique to Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1 is a start-up feature that launches the browser quickly even on older computers. Still missing is support for HTML 3.2, the Java Virtual Machine and style sheets that distribute changes to all affected pages. Those features are coming in a few weeks, Fester says.