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MS prepares Unix version of Explorer

Microsoft is preparing a Unix version of its Internet Explorer browser.

Microsoft is preparing to introduce a Unix version of its Internet Explorer browser, a move that might help the company compete more aggressively with Netscape Communications in cross-platform environments.

Microsoft is consulting with unnamed Unix vendors to pick a partner for building the Unix browser, but it hasn't made any decisions yet about whom it will work with, said Yusuf Mehdi, group product manager for Internet Explorer. "We're having a Unix bake-off," he said.

A Unix version of Internet Explorer would be an important strategic technology for Microsoft because it would place the company's browser on all three major PC desktops: Windows, Macintosh, and Unix. But the release of a Unix product would also be a significant departure from the company's usual focus of developing software that will sell more of the Windows operating system.

Mehdi characterized the decision to create a Unix version of Internet Explorer as one of the many "religious issues" that Microsoft has had to address as part of its new emphasis on Internet technology.

Another example is the release of the Macintosh version of Internet Explorer earlier this year, complete with support for Netscape plug-ins, even though the Windows version won't have this feature until Explorer 3.0 is released late this summer. To develop the Macintosh version of the browser, Microsoft hired a number of experienced Mac developers who had previously worked for Claris, a software company owned by Apple Computer. It might adopt a similar strategy for the Unix version, although Mehdi said that no decisions had yet been reached.