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IE 4.0 goes retail

Microsoft releases a retail version of its Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, providing yet another distribution channel for the newly launched product.

Microsoft (MSFT) today released a retail version of its Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, providing yet another distribution channel for the newly launched product.

The company suggests a retail price of $49, although it is offering a $20 mail-in rebate through December. "Internet Explorer Plus" on CD-ROM will be sold at 16 stores including CompUSA, Costco, Computer City, Egghead, and Fry's.

I.E. 4.0 already can be downloaded free from Microsoft's Web page, but selling software to consumers through retail channels remains a key part of the company's strategy. Now, for example, Microsoft is running full-page ads in magazines such as Martha Stewart Living touting a collection of its consumer-oriented software, dubbed "Home Essentials," for about $109.

Internet Explorer Plus includes components such as Outlook Express and NetMeeting, as well as Real Player by Progressive Networks and Macromedia's Shockwave Director and Flash. It also includes two months of free Net surfing through deals with MSN and AT&T WorldNet.

Netscape still dominates the browser market, but Microsoft hopes to gain ground with IE 4.0.

A study released today by Media Metrix showed that Netscape's Navigator and Communicator have a projected ownership of 12.9 million households and usage of 9.5 million households. By contrast, Internet Explorer has a projected ownership of 8.8 million households and a usage of 6.4 million households. (Media Metrix said IE ownership and usage data does not include version 4.0 or incorporation of IE in other online software products such as versions of America Online.)