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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Automatic rollout for net browser
IE 7 notification screen, Microsoft
Users will be warned when the browser is ready to install
PC users will be offered Microsoft's new browser as part of an automatic update programme by the software and technology giant.

The update is used to ensure users get the latest patches for security loopholes found in Microsoft software.

Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is due in late 2006 and the finished version will be flagged as a "high priority" automatic download for Windows users.

Microsoft said the update would help users be "more secure and up-to-date".

Shrinking share

The release of IE7 will be the biggest update to Microsoft's web browser in five years. Many keen users have been testing out beta, or trial, versions of the software for some time.

When the finished version of the new browser becomes available via the automatic update system users will get offered three options either to install, install later or not install at all.

If users choose to install it, Microsoft said IE7 would not make itself the default browser but it will "transfer the user's previous homepage, favourites, search settings and compatible toolbars".

The final version of the browser is expected to weigh in at about 12MB.

Microsoft expects IE7 to be more secure than previous versions of the browser. Many of the security updates released monthly are for loopholes found in the IE 6 program.

Microsoft said it would be possible to uninstall the program if people try it and then do not want to use it.

Microsoft is producing software tools for large organisations so they can block the automatic download and installation of the browser.

Mikko Hypponen, director of anti-virus research at F-Secure, said the automatic download could be a good tactic for Microsoft.

"IE7 might have undiscovered bugs and security vulnerabilities in it," he said, "but then again, IE6 surely has undiscovered bugs and security vulnerabilities in it."

He added: "Most security-conscious users have already migrated to other browsers anyway."

Thomas Ford, spokesman for browser maker Opera, said: "This is classic Microsoft behaviour. We are not surprised they would roll it out like this."

"The question is," he said, "do people want to wait until the end of this year to be safe on the web?"

Since the release of IE 6, rival browsers such as Firefox, Opera and others have been nibbling away at its user base.

The latest figures from web analysis firm One Stat released in early July show that Internet Explorer is the most widely used browser with an 83.5% market share. In June 2004 IE that share stood at 95%.




SEE ALSO
Help is at hand for web security
09 Jun 06 |  Technology
Firefox sorts out security flaws
20 Apr 06 |  Technology
Microsoft expands browser testing
25 Apr 06 |  Technology
Microsoft unveils Vista editions
27 Feb 06 |  Technology
Browser users urged to patch up
14 Dec 05 |  Technology

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