Services & Software

IE 7 comes a-knocking--eventually

Microsoft is tagging Internet Explorer 7 as a "high priority" update, but the company is taking longer to distribute it than some expected.

Microsoft is telling people that Internet Explorer 7 is a "high priority" update, but the company is taking longer than some expected to push the new Web browser out.

The software maker said it doesn't plan to push the browser update out alongside the security patches slated for Tuesday. Instead, the browser update is being trickled out to hundreds of millions of users over a three-month period.

Everyone who uses an English language version of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Automatic Updates enabled should receive a notice to upgrade to IE 7 by the end of January, said Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of IE product management. That notice will pop up on people's screens, tagging the new browser as a high-priority download.

IE 7 installation

Microsoft had said it would deliver IE 7 in November via Automatic Updates, leading some to think the browser would be pushed out alongside the company's monthly security fixes. IE 7 is the first major update to Microsoft's ubiquitous Web browser in five years. It is about 15 megabytes as a download.

"Just because you get security updates on Tuesday doesn't mean that you're getting IE 7 at the same time," Schare said. "We're mostly not delivering it at high volume so that the security updates have a clear path to get out to everyone very quickly."

Although IE 7 will be pushed out over Automatic Updates, people will be able to choose whether they want to install it. Automatic Updates will first notify users that IE 7 is available. Then it will show a welcome screen that presents key features and the choices to install, not install or postpone installation.

Microsoft started the IE distribution last week. So far, only 1 percent of Windows XP users have received an upgrade notification, Schare said. "Some user could have gotten it yesterday, the person sitting next to him could get it on January 10," he said.

Still, those who don't want the IE 7 notification to pop up on their PCs should already have acted. In July, Microsoft made a special tool available to block automatic delivery of the browser. The tool is meant for business users who might not be ready for an IE update--because it may not work with certain custom-built Web applications, for example.

"We expect many businesses to delay deployment of IE 7," Schare said. Microsoft learned a lesson about this when it pushed out Service Pack 2 for Windows XP via the update function. Many organizations are using IE 7 as part of their plans to get ready for Windows Vista. Vista, slated to be broadly available in January, includes the browser update.

The IE 7 push-out process is arbitrary and handled by the same system that delivers security updates. If everything goes smoothly, Microsoft may speed up the upgrades, Schare said. "A big gating factor for us is the support call volume," he said. Microsoft offers free telephone support for IE 7 in North America and in other regions.

So far, Microsoft is pushing out only the English version of IE 7. German, French, Spanish, Finnish, Brazilian, Portuguese and Arabic are slated to follow on Wednesday, according to a note on the company's Web site. Other languages are scheduled to be available starting in January, according to the note.

People who don't want to wait for Automatic Updates can download IE 7 directly from Microsoft's Web site.