Microsoft gears up for Internet Explorer 3.0 release

Microsoft will release Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1 and Macintosh in beta in May and will ship the free Web client upgrade in June, says company head Bill Gates.

The Windows 3.1 version of the Web and intranet browser will support Java, says Gates, who spoke via live link from Redmond, Washington to attendees at the Internet World trade show yesterday. About 400 ISPs are supporting the browser, he says.

Explorer 3.0 will feature HTML for enhancing use of frames and tables. Additionally, users will be able to link ActiveX controls for multiple functions, such as Web-based multimedia presentations where one control handles audio and another video.

Additionally, Java applets can be wrapped within ActiveX controls. Version 3.0 also allows for multipoint conferencing, in which more than two parties can be conferenced in over the Web for document editing or other functions.

This differentiates Explorer from Netscape Navigator 3.0, which only allows conferencing from two locations, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also says that in June it will beta test Web administration tools for Windows NT that enable an NT server to be administered remotely from a Web browser on different platforms, including a Macintosh. NT security functions verify access to the NT server over the Internet.

A final release will ship after the beta test period. The tools are being referred to as Web admin tools for NT. Exact product details must be ironed out, Microsoft says.

The Explorer release is on the heels of Netscape Communications' release of its market-leading Navigator 3.0 browser upgrade for various platforms. The free evaluation beta of that product became available this week from the Netscape home page.

The pace of Internet software releases, which several industry observers have dubbed "in Netscape time", has versions nearly bumping into one another in various forms of beta and final release.

For example, Microsoft also yesterday released Internet Explorer 2.0 for the Windows 3.1 platforms, broadening it from its 32-bit Windows 95 origins. The free browser joins the recent shipment of Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 for the Macintosh. Browser versions are also already available for Windows NT, says Microsoft.

"Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 for Windows 3.1 offers users a chance to get their feet wet on the Internet while they make the transition to a 32-bit environment and the new capabilities that ActiveX technologies bring to the Web," says Brad Silverberg, senior vice-president of the Internet platform and tools division at Microsoft.

In a related announcement, Shiva says its remote access client technology will be included as part of Explorer for Windows 3.x. This extends Shiva's 16-bit API to allow ISVs to build remote access capabilities for Windows 3.x applications, says Woody Benson, senior vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing at Shiva.

Telecommunications giant MCI is providing the Microsoft browser as a choice for some of its Internet connectivity customers, the company says.

"MCI One customers will be among the first in the world to have access to the new Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 for Windows 3.1," says John Donoghue, vice-president of MCI marketing.

Explorer 2.0 for Windows 3.1 includes support for HTTP-Cookies, allowing users to create customised Web home pages by accessing the customisable features on the MSN home page (http://www.msn.com/). Users can get instant updates on their favourite stocks, link to favourite pages, add cartoons, see news in their fields of interest, and add other customised features, says Microsoft.

Explorer 2.0 for Windows 3.1 is compatible with such Internet standards as HTML 2.0 and 3.0 tags, NNTP news reading, HTTP-Cookies, FTP, and Gopher, as well as SMTP for sending email.

Explorer 2.0 for Windows 3.1 also provides support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) 2.0 so that users can access the Internet with confidence, says Microsoft.

Microsoft can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/. Shiva can be reached at http://www.shiva.com/.

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