Microsoft CEO Bill Gates launched Internet Explorer 5.0 on Thursday, while promising that the OS formerly known as Windows 98 OSR--now known as Windows 98 Second Edition--would be available this fall at retail, as well as with new computer sales. This marks a change from the OSR strategy employed with Windows 95, where updates were only made available to PC makers. But the point of the day, of course, was the IE 5.0 intro, which took place at the company's Internet studios in Redmond.

"IE, like all our Windows technologies, is a platform," Gates said. "It surprises us where people can go with them. Our goal here in improving this technology is speaking directly to the mission I see Microsoft focused on today, and that is taking the Internet and turning it into the most powerful tool of all time."

IE 5.0, unlike it predecessor, doesn't run amok with the Windows user interface, but rather includes a full complement of best-of-breed tools that makes using the Internet easier and faster. The Internet Explorer team says that it's faster, smaller, and more stable than IE 4.0.

As for Windows 98 SE, Gates said that it was simply an incremental upgrade that would include IE 5.0 and Internet Connection Services, which allows you to share one modem among multiple computers. Like the current version of Windows 98, it will cost $89 for new users. He said the upgrade would install in "fifteen" minutes, letting Windows 98 users gets on the Web as quickly as possible. Existing Windows 98 users will be able to update their system with the new SE features using Windows Update