Everyone by now is familiar with the monthly Automatic Updates that Microsoft pushes to our desktops for our installation. And yes, you SHOULD be installing these updates, as many contain critical fixes to dangerous flaws in various pieces of Microsoft software, including the much attacked Windows operating system itself and, more recently, various components of the company’s flagship Office suite (lately, Excel and Powerpoint have been particularly hard hit).
The update that is making the rounds now from Redmond is the release of their just-finished Internet Explorer version 7.
If you’re just plain comfortable and used to IE 6 and don’t want to upgrade, well, you’ll keep getting ping’d by MS to upgrade until you finally succumb. Maybe not today, maybe not this week, but you WILL move to Internet Explorer 7. It is Microsoft’s will.
Which brings us to the vexing question: is this new browser a good thing? In a short answer (which will be followed with many qualifiers): yes.
IE 7 finally embraces the very helpful ‘tabbed browsing’ interface that it’s competitition, Firefox and Opera, have made a key piece of their browsers for at least a year or more. It really is a time saver. Personally, this alone should give you enough reason to want IE 7.
There are other niceties, as well as a few oddities in the interface which you’ll have to adapt to, but in the end, the browsing experience is generally a good deal better, and considerably safer, than that provided by IE 6.
However, an exploit has already been uncovered in IE 7 (did we expect it to be bullet proof?), and, in our unscientific tests, IE 7 still renders pages slower than its browser brethren.
In addition, what gets under our skin a bit is the fact that Microsoft and Microsoft alone is able to PUSH this ‘urgent’ update to almost everyone on the planet through their Automatic Update feature. No other company has the luxury to push their latest/greatest software releases to the masses. It’s a mild example of the company taking advantage of their monopoly in one area of software (the operating system) to peddle/push its other software.
But in the end, we conclude that the arrival of IE 7 is good news, really! The giant from Redmond, after having won Browser War I several years ago by crushing Netscape (remember them?), declaring a monopolistic win in browsers and promptly sending all of their creative and technical browser developers home, letting its Internet Explorer languish for several years, has been poked and prodded by the Mozilla gang and their upstart Firefox browser (which has now grabbed an estimated 10% of the browser market in the two years it’s been around) enough to re-awaken. Now we may have some new innovations in browser software, as real competition in this segment exists again. Long live open markets and real competition!
Last note: does anyone remember the massive lawsuit brought against Microsoft in the late 90’s by Netscape, where Netscape declared that Microsoft’s ‘marrying’ its Internet Explorer browser to its Operating System constituted unfair monopolisitic practices and must be stopped, and Microsoft retorted that it was ‘impossible’ to separate the browser from the Operating System, as they were so intertwined as to be simply unseparable. Nothing much came of that lawsuit, and Netscape went quietly away.
Now, it’s 2006, and lo and behold! A standalone upgrade to their browser, quite independent of their operating system, is released by Microsoft. Now how DID they do that?
The Tech Team at 123
P.S. IE 7 is only available to users of Windows XP. Won’t work with Win 2K, ME, NT, 98, 95… sorry.