The announcement of a stand-alone Internet Explorer release goes against a lot of what we have heard from Microsoft these past years. Indeed, it was even claimed that IE could not be separated from the Windows OS - that this was impossible. Microsoft even testified to that effect in court, as part of the antitrust battle with the US Department of Justice.
At the time Microsoft insisted that the browser was so intrinsic to the operating system that selling the two products separately was impractical. Immediately Microsoft's IE programme manager Brian Countryman announced that standalone versions of Internet Explorer would be discontinued.
"As part of the OS (operating system), IE will continue to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations," he said.
This week's announcement suggests that Microsoft is sufficiently concerned about losing market share to review its stance.
Microsoft have promised many new features with this new IE, including better measures against spyware programs, a growing annoyance for Internet users. There are still no completely definite details as to when IE 7 will be finally released, but the beta version will be available for customers running Windows XP with service pack two probably some time this summer.