Microsoft has released a beta version of Internet Explorer 6, the next iteration of its Web browser, to a group of testers, developers, and partners, the software giant confirmed .
Version 6 will, according to a report at www.wininformant.com/, add new Explorer bars -- one that gives users easy access to digital media, including video, music, and still images, and one for MSN Instant Messenger. Version 5.5's Explorer bar offers search, history, favorites, and files functionality.
The media Explorer bar will integrate the browser with Windows Media Player, much as MSN Explorer has done. MSN Explorer, released earlier this autumn, is an easy-to-use Internet client for consumers that integrates many Microsoft properties, including search features, eShop, Hotmail, MSN Web Communities, and Money Central.
WinInformant, and one developer familiar with Microsoft's plans, said the company is copying functionality from MSN Explorer into Explorer 6.
"It won't look as beginner-ish as MSN Explorer, but Microsoft thinks [MSN Explorer] is the right way to go as far as ease of use is concerned," said the developer, who asked not to be identified.
Explorer 6 likely will be integrated into Whistler, the next version of Windows, which is expected to ship next year, according to the developer.
A representative of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, who would not comment on specific new features, said the beta version of Explorer 6 was released late last week