Microsoft is planning to distribute a beta of its more secure Internet Explorer 7 browser within four months.
The beta will be available to users of the company’s Windows XP operating system, ahead of the launch of its next generation Windows system Vista.
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The plan is to launch the beta before the end of March 2006, to allow users to test the extra security and functionality that will come with IE 7.
As well as new anti-phishing and anti-spyware features, the browser is expected to offer users tabbed browsing, in the same way its main rival Firefox does.
Web analytics companies estimate the open-source Firefox browser from the Mozilla Foundation now has approaching 9% of the browser market, since being launched a year ago.
Internet Explorer 6 and earlier versions takes up around 85% of the market. IE 7 is designed to help stall Firefox’s continued growth, amid concerns among some users that Internet Explorer is less secure.
The newly launched Firefox 1.5 however has just been hit by a new security flaw.