IE 4.0 entered beta last month in a marketing campaign usually reserved for final shipping product. The company boasted of over 1 million downloads in the first week, but many users who didn't heed the beta warnings ended up having to reformat their systems. Even users who haven't had problems have been surprised by the extent of the changes IE 4.0 makes once installed on their PCs.
"Make no mistake, the 4.0 beta isn't a browser; it's an operating system upgrade," said John Robb, principal of technology consultancy Gomez Advisors.
IE 4.0 integrates itself into the Windows interface and allows viewing of system files in the browser environment, a situation that Microsoft's critics consider anticompetitive given that the software giant controls a vast majority of PC desktops. That number will rise as Apple Computer begins to bundle IE 4.0 as the default browser on every Macintosh as part of its recent deal with Microsoft.
The free program will be available from the company's Web site. U.S. and Canadian users that don't want to bother with the Internet traffic can order IE 4.0 on CD-ROM for a $5 ($13 Canadian) handling fee. The disc will also come with rebates for various Web site subscriptions, a Microsoft representative said.
The Windows 95 and NT versions of IE 4.0 will be available on September 30. The Windows 3.1 and Macintosh versions will ship 30 to 90 days later. A Unix version is slated for beta by the end of 1997 with a final version due in the first quarter of 1998.