Microsoft targets IE6, IE7 users with browser upgrade next week

Will offer IE8 via Windows Update first, plans WSUS push in July

Microsoft Corp. will begin pushing Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) to users running the older IE6 and IE7 browsers next week, the company has announced.

Although people running earlier versions of IE8 have been seeing upgrade offers since Microsoft released the final code last month, only now is the company getting around to posting the new browser on Windows Update.

"Starting on or about the third week of April, users still running IE6 or IE7 on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008 will get a notification through Automatic Update about IE8," said Eric Hebenstreit, a lead program manager on the IE8 team, in an entry to a company blog.

Microsoft plans to ramp up the offer over time, so not all IE8 and IE7 users will see the pitch immediately.

Unlike other updates, which can download and install automatically per the user's settings, IE8 may download to the PC -- but it requires the user's consent to install.

As Microsoft did when it issued IE7 in 2006, the company will let users reject or delay the installation. Before IE8 begins to install, users will see a splash screen that gives them three choices: "Ask me later," "Install" and "Don't Install." Users who pick the first option will be offered IE8 the next time that the PC conducts an update scan.

In January, Microsoft not only spelled out the IE8 upgrade offer, but also released a tool kit for IT administrators who want to block the new browser from reaching machines on their networks. The tool kit, which is still available from Microsoft's site, can stymie IE8 indefinitely.

The tool kit will have no affect on machines that pull Microsoft's updates via Windows Service Update Services (WSUS) or Systems Management Server (SMS), however. If Update Rollups are configured for automatic installation on WSUS, for example, IE8 will automatically install throughout the organization. Hebenstreit said that the browser will be fed to WSUS and SMS in July.

Users who don't want to wait for Windows Update to offer IE8 can manually download the browser.

According to Web metrics vendor Net Applications Inc., IE8's market share last week was 3.7%, up from 3.3% the week before and 2.7% two weeks ago.

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