Continuing its browser rollout, on Wednesday Microsoft (MSFT)
will post the first public beta of Internet Explorer 4.0 for the Macintosh.
IE 4.0 for Mac will eventually have many of the same features as its Windows counterpart, but the browser will not become as tightly woven into the Finder user interface as IE 4.0 will be in Windows 98. The biggest addition to the new Mac version is support for push channels. Push channels allow a user to subscribe to a Web site and schedule automatic downloads of its content.
Wednesday's Mac beta will have support for channels but not for dynamic HTML, which means much of the content from Microsoft's channel partners will not visible. None of the channels will come preloaded with the software, according to Microsoft product manager Kevin Unangst. Users who want to try channels with this first beta will have to go to Web sites that provide a channel and install it themselves.
Microsoft announced dozens of channel partners with the second beta of IE 4.0 for Windows, many of them featured in the channel bar, a menu that slides into view from the left side of the screen. Mac users will also have a channel bar in this week's beta, but it will be blank. Any channel built for IE 4.0 will work on both the Windows and Macintosh platforms, Unangst said. Channel creators will not have to develop a separate Mac version of their content.
Users will have the choice of installing IE 4.0 for Mac with the default Java Virtual Machine or with Apple's Mac Runtime for Java. Because the Mac OS has a shared memory space, Microsoft is writing IE 4.0 for Mac to fit within a 4MB memory partition. To do this, Unangst said, the browser will unload the Java Virtual Machine when a user leaves a Java-enabled page.
The upcoming beta will provide mail and newsgroup access through the Microsoft Internet Mail and News client, but the final version will ship with Outlook Express. The final version of IE 4.0 for Mac will also ship with "security zones"--Microsoft's term for setting different levels of browsing security. It remains unclear whether the Mac version will be able to support Active Desktop-like functions.
IE 4.0 for Mac will ship one to three months after the final release of the Windows version, which is due by the end of the summer.