IE 7

At long last, Microsoft has decided that it will actually release Internet Explorer 7.

I will be watching this really closely. It is clear that Microsoft finally has taken the Firefox threat seriously, as it contradicts statements made by them even weeks ago. What will be interesting is how much effort will Microsoft put into IE 7. Is it just going to be a security release like IE 6 SP2 was (for those lucky to have XP)? Or is it going to add new features to the UI like tabbed browsing? How about changes to (or please say replacement of) the rendering engine?

Microsoft finds itself right now at a crossroads when it comes to web browsers. Can it actually innovate and catch up to the competition, or will it just throw some security features and maybe tabbed browsing into a “major” upgrade?

Then there is the crazy timeline for its release. A beta by summer and then release I assume sometime in the fall/winter range (which means in Microspeak, spring 2006 is probably the earliest we will see this in completed form if we are lucky). As Asa points out, that puts this dangerously close to Longhorn’s release anyway…which makes this smell like a “don’t worry, we haven’t abandoned you” statement from Microsoft to its customers and nothing more.

Mark this right now. Microsoft may only have one chance to get this right. Firefox by my estimates has easily three quarters of a year at least to continue to make gains in the browser market before IE 7 is released. If Firefox can get its numbers up to 20-25%, Microsoft will find itself in a pretty tight spot by its release schedule…at that point, I don’t think Firefox’s numbers will go down much if at all by IE 7 and Microsoft will be forced to port IE 7 to earlier Windows versions to have a shot and will be forced to do future upgrades on a much quicker time table. The web could become a very interesting place in the next year.

Firefox right now has the upper hand, Microsoft is now reacting to us, the Firefox community, instead of the other way around. We now control the future of the web, with standards ruling the way. Our best shot at buring IE 7 is by out innovating IE 7 before it comes out…give users not a single reason to switch back to IE if they even get that crazy thought in their mind for a split second. Let’s make IE play catchup for real.

It could be fun watching the mighty fall.

As Ben says, “Game on”.