Microsoft held a seminar today for technical journalists at their Redmond campus to discuss features in an upcoming build of Internet Explorer 4.0. The company publicly discussed some features for the first time, including a "package management" feature that allows IS managers to transmit and manage applications across a network. Microsoft also clearly labeled Marimba, makers of Castanet, as the company they are aiming to beat.

Microsoft is including the package management feature in the next version of their Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which will ship with IE 4 in the next public beta, due in July. Using this system, IS managers will be able to install Java and ActiveX applications on users' computers and automatically update older versions of applications all at once. In the past, this sort of activity required that these apps be installed on each machine, one at a time.

Other new IE 4 features that were demoed include an improved "customize this folder" Wizard, updated toolbars, and a more customizable interface.

Using Channel Definition Format (CDF) technology, Web sites will be able to schedule the delivery of push content to users. Unlike Castanet, the CDF software will not require a specialized server to accomplish this.

During the seminar, Microsoft emphasized that CDF and Dynamic HTML have "momentum," which is usually the death knell for any technology (as any OS/2 or PowerPC proponent will tell you). "Dynamic HTML is the power to build real apps using HTML," said Michael Wallent, another program manager at Microsoft.

CDF and Dynamic HTML have been submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for approval as Internet standards. Microsoft also announced that FrontPage98--due late this year--will produce CDF and Dynamic HTML Web pages as will the next version of Visual InterDev, due in 1998. Numerous third party companies also announced support for these technologies today, including Allaire Corp., Bluestone Inc., Elemental Software Inc., ExperTelligence Inc., Pictorius Inc. and SoftQuad Inc. Borland, Macromedia, and Powersoft have already announced support for Dynamic HTML and CDF.

"SoftQuad is pleased to have incorporated support for dynamic HTML into our upcoming release of HoTMetaL PRO 4.0," said Lauren Wood, technical product manager for SoftQuad and chair of the W3C Document Object Model Working Group. "SoftQuad is a believer in standards-based technologies, and we support the Document Object Model as an enabling technology for the development and delivery of structured documents across the Web and corporate intranets.