On April 25, at 12:01 a.m. EST, Microsoft will open the Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 floodgates—and the phone support lines.
Microsoft is set to post for download from the Microsoft Internet Explorer Web site Beta 2 of IE 7 for Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2 customers. It also will post simultaneously new IE 7 Beta 2 builds for Windows XP 64-bit editions and Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1. Until now, the only stand-alone test versions of IE 7 that Microsoft had delivered was the XP SP2 version.
IE 7, which Microsoft will release both as a stand-alone browser and as an integrated component of Windows Vista, includes a number of new features and functionality, including tabbed browsing, advanced printing, integrated RSS feed support, anti-phishing and other security-focused enhancements, and more standards-adherent CSS support.
IE 7 Beta 2 follows on the heels of two different browser versions labeled as “IE 7 Beta 2 Preview.” Microsoft distributed these builds, which ran on XP SP2 only, in February and March.
Testers who worked with either of these builds will not see any noticeable changes in IE 7, according to Gary Schare, director of IE product management. But those who have yet to test the code, or who have tested only Beta 1, which went out in July 2005, will see a number of improvements, he said.
“There will be no major difference in functionality from the last two preview releases,” Schare told Microsoft Watch, as most of the code changes since then were “under the covers” bug fixes and security enhancements.
Testers running any of the previous IE 7 test/beta builds will need to uninstall them before attempting to install the IE 7 Beta 2 build, Schare said.
To encourage more testers to kick the tires of the new IE 7 Beta 2 build, Microsoft is making free phone support available to a large subset of testers. Microsoft is staging the rollout, making the English version available immediately; the Arabic, Finish and German versions on May 3; and the Japanese version on May 8. Microsoft will make free support available to North American, German and Japanese testers.
And, unlike the case with the interim test builds, Microsoft is committing to providing any and all IE security updates to IE 7 Beta 2 users, Schare said.