Hedging slightly on its vow not to update browser before releasing Longhorn, Microsoft says it could release add-ons to freshen up IE.
Microsoft, under pressure to add new features to Internet Explorer, said it might do so by way of the browser's add-on mechanism.
The company has been steadfast in its insistence that it won't issue a new standalone IE, which saw its last major upgrade in August 2001. After sustaining a series of security crises with IE, Microsoft issued a major upgrade with the Windows XP Service Pack 2. But that IE update is available only to people who use Windows XP—about half the Windows world.
Microsoft has insisted that all hands are too busy working on the much-delayed operating system under development—called Longhorn—to revisit the browser. But now the company says that through the browser's add-on capability, it might add IE features that customers deemed a "super high priority."
"That's an avenue for Microsoft to add to IE," said Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of product management for Windows. "Longhorn is the primary focus, and anything that detracts from it is looked at with a lot of scrutiny. That said, the add-on mechanism is pretty robust and pretty easy to develop to. It's an option, though we have no specific plans to do it."
Schare, who has made prior comments on the add-on possibility first reported by Microsoft Watch, said not all features could work as IE add-ons. Tabbed browsing, for example, wouldn't qualify.
The company's Windows Marketplace recently launched a section devoted to IE add-ons. Only one of those—the MSN Toolbar—is a Microsoft product, though the outdated Service Pack 1 is also listed.
Schare said activity was brisk at the new add-on site, with about 1,000 add-ons listed since the site launched.