Microsoft Corporation welcomed beta testers this week to its latest Internet Explorer 5.x technologies beta, code-named "Mars," which will be released as IE 5.5. This release, which will be also be incorporated into Windows Millennium, the next Consumer Windows, is expected to include the display technologies necessary to facilitate the basis of the next Windows user interface. Mars, which will make Activity Centers and other user interface gadgets in Windows Millennium possible, will also be available as an add-on for Windows 2000 and other versions of Windows. Some early screenshots of Mars were mistakenly identified as "Neptune," the Consumer Windows that will follow Millennium.

And if you're seeing a theme here with names such as Mars and Neptune, you're not alone. Microsoft has other related Windows products and add-ons in the works such as "Asteroid," a future point release to Windows 2000, and "Comet," a collection of networking updates