Internet

Microsoft touts IE 4.5 for Macs

The company releases a new version of its Web browser, claiming it has numerous performance enhancements available first on Apple systems.

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft, eager to show its support for a competitor in the market for operating systems, today released a new version of its Internet Explorer Web browser and took the wraps off a new Web site catering to the needs of Mac users.

Microsoft is claiming it has made numerous performance and feature enhancements for IE 4.5, some of which are being made available first on the Mac.

Further enhancements to the browser that will add more support for new Internet standards are in the works for mid-1999. The freshly minted Web site, called Mactopia, is also being offered by Microsoft executives to show that the company is taking the Mac market seriously and devoting resources to the platform.

"It's note enough just to port Windows functionality to the Mac. Throughout all of our [Mac] products, you will see innovations only available on the Mac platform," said Jodi Ropert, group product manager for Microsoft's Mac business unit. In the past, the company has been chastised by Mac users for simply reconstituting its Windows programs for use on the Mac, instead of tweaking them for better performance and taking advantage of Mac-specific technologies.

Among the upcoming features touted by Microsoft:

  • Internet Explorer 4.5 will support Sherlock, Apple's software technology in Macintosh OS 8.5 that allows users to locate Web content more easily. A search button on the browser's main toolbar will allow users to access Sherlock's functions.

  • Page Holder, which will let users view the content of page links while still viewing the original page in a separate "pane." This is expected to lead to faster browsing, because users will not have to reload previous pages.

  • IE 4.5 will automatically adjust the content of a Web page to fit onto a sheet of paper without clipping text or images. Web pages are often too big to fit on a standard piece of paper. IE will essentially tweak the electronic page layout so that it fits better and can be printed more easily.

  • Like Office98, Explorer will automatically "repair" itself if a user mistakenly removes a portion of software code.

In addition to being easier to install than previous versions, the program will load twice as fast and can display Web pages stored in memory up to 30 percent as fast as previous versions, said Ropert.

The company has also done extensive testing, Ropert said, to ensure the browser will be more reliable than previous versions, a common peeve among users of both Explorer and Netscape's Navigator and Communicator Web browser software.

Apple, Microsoft put animosity aside to make money
The new software and Web site serve to highlight the complicated, nearly symbiotic relationship between Microsoft and Apple. The companies' private wrangling over multimedia software became public last year in testimony given by Apple executives in the Department of Justice's (DOJ) antitrust case against Microsoft.

Apple executives accused Microsoft of threatening to stop development of Microsoft Office for the Mac if Apple didn't stop development of software that was in a key market Microsoft was planning to target.

"To the extent that Apple and Microsoft can work together to bring great products to market for the customer--that's what we're in business for," said Ben Waldman, general manager of the Macintosh business unit at Microsoft, when asked about the complicated relationship between the two companies. Waldman noted that in Japan, sales of the Mac version of the Microsoft Office 98 program accounted for 20 percent of revenues in the month of August 1998.

The new version of Explorer for the Mac is available for download at Microsoft's site. Attendees of the Macworld keynote speech today are also to receive free copies of the software.