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Microsoft releases tardy Mac browser

Operating on the assumption that late is better than never, the company unveils its newest browser for the Macintosh platform--a full year after releasing Internet Explorer 5 for Windows.

Operating on the assumption that late is better than never, Microsoft has unveiled its newest browser for the Macintosh platform--a full year after releasing Internet Explorer 5 for Windows.

The Mac edition of IE 5 became available for download this week after a series of delays. Microsoft initially planned a summer 1999 release but delayed it to the fall. In September, the company acknowledged it had missed that mark and pushed back the release to winter.

This is the second week of spring.

Microsoft will have to count on Mac users' patience lasting even a little longer: The new browser, which works with Mac OS 7.6.1 and later, still lacks the radio toolbar that was one of IE 5's most noticeable new features when it launched for Windows last March. Called a "media bar" in IE 5 for the Mac, the bar in the Windows edition has a play/stop button, a mute button, a volume dial and a drop-down menu that lets people add a radio station to their "favorites" list.

Microsoft has cited work on a new rendering engine, which does the heavy lifting of displaying the Web's text and graphics, as part of the reason the browser has been delayed.

Even so, Mac users will be the first to use some new IE 5 tools, including an Auction Manager. First previewed in July at the Macworld trade show in New York, the tool keeps track of auctions, letting people know when they are outbid, when auctions close, and whether someone has paid for or received items.

The Mac edition of IE 5 also has an Internet Scrapbook, which lets people store and organize Web pages.

One cosmetic change in the spirit of recent Macintosh trends lets people change the color of the browser frame; choices include blueberry, Bondi, grape, graphite, lime, PowerBook black, PowerBook bronze, strawberry and tangerine.