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.
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.)
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