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Explorer for the other half

Microsoft posts Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1, an expanded version of its browser that still lacks key elements such as Java and ActiveX support.

Microsoft (MSFT) today posted Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1, an expanded version of its browser but one that still lacks key elements such as Java and ActiveX support.

The new browser gives millions of Windows 3.1 users access to innovations such as JavaScript, VB Script, and plug-in support, which have been available for months to its Windows 95 users. By Microsoft's own estimate, Windows 3.1 still commands 49 percent of the PC desktop market.

The software can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site.

Microsoft and Netscape Communications have been slow to deliver Java support on Windows 3.1, partly because the language is designed to work with a multithreaded operating system.

Tweaking Java to work with a single-threaded operating system like Windows 3.1 is a huge engineering challenge, but not impossible. In August, IBM became the first company to introduce a Java engine for Windows 3.1, although no browser vendor has yet announced support for the IBM engine.

Microsoft representatives said today that it too is on the verge of overcoming the engineering obstacles and plans to offer Java and ActiveX support for Windows 3.1 users by the end of the year.

"We're absolutely going to bring ActiveX and Java to Windows 3.1 users," said Kevin Unangst, a product manager at Microsoft. "We've got a product now that's still clearly ahead of other 16-bit browsers."

In a bid to match Netscape's cross-platform presence, the company is also preparing Macintosh and Unix versions of Internet Explorer 3.0 for release by the end of the year, according to Unangst.

Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1 does not run ActiveX controls, but it does feature what Microsoft is calling ActiveX Scripting, a blanket term for the JavaScript and VB Script capabilities that help developers add some pizzazz to Web pages.

Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1 also includes Secure Sockets Layer encryption support, a new Internet Mail client, and an Internet Connection Wizard, which automates signing up to an Internet service provider. The new browser also comes with a TCP/IP protocol stack and dialer software for connecting to the Internet.