Microsoft will deliver the next version of its Internet Explorer browser to consumers via its AU (Automatic Updates) service, it has said.

Microsoft plans to release the final version of IE 7.0 in the fourth quarter of 2006, with the browser going out via AU soon after, said Gary Schare, director of IE product management at the company.

Although software delivered via AU is usually sent automatically without any interaction from the user, Microsoft will give customers a chance to opt in or out of receiving the IE 7.0 release, Schare said. This is following the same tactic Microsoft used when it released Windows XP Service Pack 2.0, which included the previous version of IE, he said. When the IE 7.0 release comes up on a PC's AU service, the service will ask users if they want to install it now, not install it at all or install it later.

"AU is designed for updates that have significant security and reliability benefits to them, but when [the updates] have significant new experiences and features, we wouldn't install until users explicitly said okay," Schare said.

Because enterprise customers often have their own way to update desktops on a corporate network, Microsoft will today release a free 'blocker toolkit' that will allow them to shut off the AU release of IE 7.0 release on PCs that have AU turned on, Schare said. "The toolkit [is so] they can manage and set the machines not to receive the update if they so choose," he explained.

IE 7.0 will also be available as a free download from Microsoft's IE site, which is how the company has been making beta releases of the browser available. IE 7.0 is currently in its beta 3.0 release.

Some of the new features available in IE 7.0 include built-in support for RSS feeds, tabbed browsing and improved security, including an antiphishing filter.