Could Microsoft be wanting to beat back market share away from Firefox? You betcha.
Last year, Microsoft finally released a new web browser into Internet wilderness. It had been, what some might say, far too long since the last iteration of Internet Explorer was released and alternative browsers such as Opera and Firefox were quickly gaining ground. The new version brought about tabbed browsing and phishing filters but was only available to people that had a genuine copy of Windows XP - until now that is.
"Because Microsoft takes its commitment to help protect the entire Windows ecosystem seriously, we’re updating the IE7 installation experience to make it available as broadly as possible to all Windows users. With today’s “Installation and Availability Update,” Internet Explorer 7 installation will no longer require Windows Genuine Advantage validation and will be available to all Windows XP users
," said Steve Reynolds, IE7 Program Manager, on the IE7 blog
"If you are not already running IE7, you can get it now from the Internet Explorer home page on Microsoft.com, get a customized version from a third-party site, or, if you haven’t already received it via Automatic Updates, this version will be delivered to you as we described previously. If you are already running IE7, you will not be offered IE7 again by Automatic Updates
While this may seem good for Microsoft in the press, it's unlikely that anyone that has been using an alternative browser on an unlicensed copy of Windows will convert back. It may be just a case of IE7 being "too little, too late" with the only option for redemption being a new browser build that fixes known errors and improves tremendously on the current version.
With that said though, some other tweaks have been made to this release. Notably, the menu bar will be visible by default and a new MSI installer for IT administrators has been included.
Think you'll switch back to Internet Explorer now or will you keep using Firefox or Opera? Let us know over in the forums