The browser, which can be downloaded at no cost from here, is currently available only in English and runs on Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP 64-bit Edition and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1.
Internet Explorer 7 for XP will be made available in 23 Windows-supported languages over the coming weeks, Gary Schare, director of Windows product management, told eWEEK.
Microsoft is also offering unlimited free phone support for download and installation issues until November 1, 2007 to consumers in North America who decide to run IE 7. This support will be extended as additional languages are released, he said.
While Microsoft is expecting good consumer uptake of IE 7 for XP, the broad distribution will come through Automatic Updates, starting in early November, which will be paced over 90 days so as to ensure a good support experience for customers, Schare said.
This delivery mechanism has been thoroughly tested, as it is the same one used to deliver Windows XP SP2, Schare said, noting that most enterprises will push IE 7 out to their desktops only after they have tested it.
Microsoft released a blocker tool kit earlier this year that will not expire the way the one for XP SP2 did "as IE 7 does not replace IE 6 in the support life cycle," he said. "Enterprises can decide not to upgrade. We recommend that they do, but this will be their choice on their timeline."
Microsoft is recommending that enterprises either be compatible with or block IE 7 by Nov. 1, Schare said, adding that every customer who receives the product via Automatic Updates will be shown a screen and have to give explicit consent to install it.
The two development mantras behind IE 7 are safety and ease of use, he said, although he admitted that the same interfaces that have allowed IT professionals and Web developers to build applications that run on top of IE have also been used by "the bad guys to do some bad things," particularly over the past five years.
"Windows XP Service Pack 2 was one of the big ways in which we responded to that, and it was a very large release for the IE team," Schare said. "IE 7 is the next phase of that and is a major milestone in safety and ease of use."
While Schare acknowledged that security is ever-changing and can never be completely addressed, he claimed that IE 7 is safer than previous versions.
"Safer in the XP SP2 timeframe meant primarily safer from malware attacks as that was the in thing then," he said. "That was followed by social attacks, phishing, and so we have done a lot of work on the malware and social front in IE 7. But we dont know what the next avenue of attack will be, and so we are always trying to think ahead."
Microsoft has a number of other resources on the security front, including Windows Defender, "which is like the undo button for a bad trust decision," Schare said. "When you combine all the security work in IE 7 plus things like Windows Defender and the Microsoft Security Response Center, you see that we have a robust end-to-end security capability."