The latest Windows Vista software build offers a fairly complete look inside the new Internet Explorer. Called Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista, it differs significantly from Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP Beta, currently available to the public. With this new browser, Microsoft shores up Internet Explorer's crumbling security status and takes aim at its biggest rivals. Be sure to see our slideshow for Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista here
Upside: Like FireFox, Internet Explorer boasts built-in tabs, allowing you to open several pages within a single instance of Internet Explorer. You can save groups of tabs within Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista, too. A cool new Internet Explorer-only feature allows you to view thumbnails of all open tabs--these are live page views, so you can visually keep track of streaming video feeds and updated text news sites. As in Opera, Microsoft added zoom capabilities within Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista, allowing you to examine tiny images up close without much image loss. For security, there's a new ActiveX opt-in center, so you can monitor and control ActiveX on individual Web pages. There's also built-in antiphishing protection; when you surf to a page that Microsoft has recognized as a potentially dangerous site, you'll see a warning.
Downside: This version of Internet Explorer 7 will ship only with Windows Vista; it will not be available as a stand-alone for Windows XP or earlier users. Unless you upgrade to the new operating system when it becomes available in late 2006, you won't be able to use these new features, although a few may trickle down to Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP. Anyone still using Windows 98 SE through Windows 2000 will be able to use only Internet Explorer 6.
Outlook: While Microsoft has added several new security features to Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista, the problem has been Internet Explorer's intricate marriage with the Windows operating system--and Internet Explorer's nearly monthly appearance on Microsoft's security bulletin update list. Past flaws within IE have led to major viruses and worms attacking the Windows operating system, allowing remote users to take over an infected PC. If Microsoft delivers truly Trustworthy code with Windows Vista, as it promises, then the new Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista should be a success. But once the first security bulletin posts for this new Internet Explorer version, look for many users to bail to more secure browsers such as FireFox or Opera.