Microsoft plan new IE browser
Microsoft will release a new version of Internet Explorer, the world's most widely used Web browsing software, with stronger, built-in security features, chairman Bill Gates said yesterday.
The move is the latest in Microsoft's three-year effort to beef up security to protect its software products which are the most-targeted by malicious programmers. The company has made three security software-related acquisitions, with two of those coming in the past few months.
"We have decided to do a new version of Internet Explorer, this is IE 7," Gates said at the RSA Security Conference being held in San Francisco.
The world's largest software maker had not previously indicated whether it planned to release a new version of IE.
Gates said Microsoft would offer a consumer anti-virus product by the end of 2005 in a move that will step-up pressure on traditional security software players like Symantec and McAfee, which have seen their share prices pressured recently on the emergence of a Microsoft anti-virus product.
No details were provided on how Microsoft would price its consumer product or on when the company might unveil an anti-virus product aimed at large businesses.
A new browser version with improved security and other features can help Microsoft fend-off small, but fast-growing competition from alternative browsers, analysts said.
Firefox, a free Web browser developed by a network of software programers, has given Internet Explorer competition for the first time since Microsoft overtook the Netscape Navigator in the late 1990s to become the dominate way computer users view the World Wide Web.
The new version of IE, which Gates said is to be released for preliminary testing this summer, will have new protections against viruses, spyware and phishing scams, which fool users into entering sensitive information on Web pages that appear to be legitimate.
JP Morgan analyst Adam Holt said the new browser could also include features such as headline-watching capabilities, to allow Microsoft's Internet Explorer to better compete with Firefox.
Gates said security remains the biggest threat to the "fantastic advances" happening in the world of technology, and said Microsoft was spending more than a third of its annual $6 billion in research and development spending on security.
Microsoft's browser announcement comes three years after the world's biggest software company launched a major initiative to improve the reliability and security of its software, which runs on about 90 percent of all personal computers.
Martin Reynolds, a vice president of technology forecaster Gartner Inc., said he believed existing features in Internet Explorer would be improved to better protect the browser.
"I don't think we will see a whole bunch of new features. We will see the existing features of the browser tightened up so the security becomes more manageable," Reynolds said.
The company last month began offering a preliminary version of its free anti-spyware software, which prevents malicious programs from snooping for data on computers and recording a user's keystrokes.
Internet Explorer held a 90.3-percent share of U.S. browser usage at the middle of January, compared with a 95.5-percent share in mid-2004.
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