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Commentary: Fatter IE 6 means .Net gains

Gartner believes Microsoft will use IE 6 to tie users more closely to its Web properties, especially the Microsoft Network and bCentral, its site for small businesses.

By David Smith, Gartner Analyst

Though not yet in public beta test, Internet Explorer 6 will likely exhibit some of Microsoft's latest strategies, as well as a "back to the PC" focus, to a larger degree than previous versions of the Web browser, Gartner believes.

See news story:
Microsoft's IE 6 test version leaked online
IE 6's specific features will not be officially known for some time. Nevertheless, Microsoft's general approach to desktop software and its recent moves in related areas give a good indication of the direction in which IE 6 will likely develop.

For years, Microsoft had focused its competitive energies on Netscape. Although Netscape remains the only viable competition to IE, Microsoft's focus now is much more on AOL and its "fat" client application than on the Netscape browser.

In keeping with its .Net strategy, Microsoft will develop IE over time into more of a "smart" client--that is, one that interacts more closely with other services, whether they are local or remote. Thus, Microsoft will likely continue to increase the integration with Office applications undertaken in earlier IE versions.

Gartner believes that Microsoft also will use IE 6 to tie users more closely to its Web properties, especially the Microsoft Network (MSN) and bCentral, its site for small businesses. MSN Explorer offers a prototype. Like the AOL client software, MSN Explorer offers an easy first link--in this case, to the MSN home page--as well as quick access to a variety of Web-based functions, such as e-mail, instant messaging and multimedia content. With IE 6, Microsoft will likely try similar tactics to make it easier for general Internet users to go to its own Web sites rather than those of competitors.

IE 6 and MSN Explorer are key pieces of the company's .Net strategy. Far from being simply a technology, .Net combines platforms and tools, consumer and small business services (such as MSN and bCentral), and office and knowledge-worker applications (such as Office and the next-generation Digital Dashboard technology). The smarter IE 6 client will help to funnel users to .Net products and services.

(For related commentary on Internet Explorer 6, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.