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Microsoft launches latest IE browser

Microsoft releases the latest version of its Internet Explorer browser, while chairman Bill Gates gives those at a company event a glimpse into the future of the software maker's operating system strategy.

    Microsoft today released the latest version of its Internet Explorer browser, while chairman Bill Gates gave those attending a company event a glimpse into the future of the software maker's operating system strategy.

    In his keynote address at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2000 in Orlando, Fla., Gates highlighted IE 5.5 improvements for Web site developers, including enhancements that result in faster page-loading and more support for industry standards, according to Microsoft.

    Gates also used the event as an opportunity to lay out the road map for the company's Windows franchise.

    After the scheduled release this fall of Windows Me, an operating system based on the original Windows 95 code and designed specifically for the home PC market, Microsoft will turn its attention to migrating all Windows products to the Windows NT code base. NT is widely thought to be more stable and secure than the Windows 9x code.

    After Windows Me, Microsoft will release its next operating system--code-named Whistler--which will come in both home and business versions. It will be based on Windows NT, now known as Windows 2000. Following Whistler, Microsoft will release an operating system code-named Blackcomb.

    Blackcomb will offer a redesigned user interface, Gates said, along with more "intelligent" features.

    "The browser will be more central to all the user interface that's in the operating system," Gates said. "So Whistler will be a major release, not in the sense that Windows 2000 was, but in the sense of this road...we're heading down."

    Microsoft released international versions of the 5.5 browser last week.

    At the conference, Gates also proselytized about the company's new .Net initiative, which moves Microsoft toward more Web-based software offerings. According to Gates, IE 5.5 is the best choice for software and for Web site developers who create products based on the .Net technology.

    The new browser version features improved support for Web standards, including Cascading Style Sheets 1 (CSS) and Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) as well as a Microsoft presentation technology known as dynamic HTML (DHTML).

    With IE 5.5, Microsoft will add a print preview capability and improvements in the speed and reliability of printing.

    The next version of Microsoft's consumer operating system, Windows Me, includes IE 5.5.

    At the conference, Microsoft also announced that its 64-bit version of Windows is nearly ready to ship to developers. Yesterday, the company confirmed it would no longer include its Java-based tool in its Visual Studio.Net product, a decision that is likely to make it more difficult for independent developers to write Java applications for Windows.

    News.com's Paul Festa contributed to this report.