IE 5.0 to make its debut on March 18

Criticised in the past for its "Windows now, everybody else later" approach, Microsoft will release the latest version of its browser, Internet Explorer 5.0, on March 18 for a wide range of platforms, the company announced yesterday.

Versions of Explorer 5.0 for Windows 98, Windows 95, Windows NT 3.51, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 3.1, Sun Solaris, and HP-UX will be available for free download, Microsoft promised. Also, it will release versions in 10 languages, and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will be able to begin pre-installing Explorer 5.0 then.

Typically, Microsoft has completed work on Explorer for the latest versions of Windows and NT months before it gets to Unix, Windows 3.1, and other less prevalent platforms.

Nevertheless, Macintosh users will have to wait until summer for Explorer 5.0. Microsoft released an interim version, Explorer 4.5, in January.

Microsoft is aiming to make Explorer easier for end-users with version 5.0, which includes some IntelliSense technology -- found in Office 2000, due to ship in the second quarter of this year -- that includes a Search Assistant and expanded AutoComplete functionality. On the developer side, Explorer 5.0 will include enhanced support for Extensible Markup Language (XML).

Explorer development has progressed at Microsoft smoother than on other products. The browser went out as a technology preview for developers in June 1998, and in a public beta in November 1999.

That contrasts with Office 2000 and Service Pack 1 for Windows 98. While those are bigger projects, Microsoft had hoped to release all three together in March. Now, those two products are expected to ship in the second quarter of 1999.

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