| LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS Microsoft Corp asked software developers to "bet on us" as it began making test versions available of Internet Explorer 8, an upgraded version of the main software used to browse the Web.
At Microsoft's MIX08 conference on Wednesday, the company's chief software architect, Ray Ozzie, said the Web was at the center of everything Microsoft was doing as it seeks to expand beyond the desktop business it dominates.
"I know today that you have many amazing technology choices available to you, but I'd like you to bet on us," Ozzie told an audience of Web developers.
Microsoft has been pushing for a "software plus services" strategy that uses the Internet to augment traditional software that runs on a computer's hard drive.
Ozzie also extended an olive branch to Yahoo Inc, the Web pioneer that Microsoft is targeting in a unsolicited takeover offer, saying Yahoo has "creative people and interesting online properties."
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft provided a first look at Internet Explorer 8. IE 7 was released in October 2006.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is used by three-quarters of the world's Web users, far more than Mozilla's Firefox, which has a 17 percent share of the market, and Apple Inc's Safari with 6 percent, according to data from Web site analytics company Net Applications.
The browser is also part of the ongoing battle between Microsoft and arch-rival Google Inc.
Firefox is closely affiliated with Google, which in 2006 provided around 85 percent of the $66.8 million in revenue of Firefox's parent organization, the Mozilla Foundation.
Google distributes Firefox as its preferred browser software in a number of its products. Firefox counts 160 million unique active users of its browser alternative.
Microsoft's new browser is available to developers at www.microsoft.com/ie/ie8.
FEATURES IN IE 8
Internet Explorer General Manager Dean Hachamovitch showed some user features of IE 8, but he did not give a launch date for it.
One feature called "Activities" lets users highlight an address on a Web site, then see a map within the site with a single click. Users can also highlight a product name and see if the item is available on eBay. Another feature lets users save work done on a Web site to the local computer when an Internet connection goes down.
Earlier this week, Microsoft said it would drop its traditional resistance to industrywide standards for how its software renders Web pages and, by default, make its Explorer browser work more easily with other Web coding tools.
That means Web sites will essentially look the same regardless of browser, and developers will not need to do multiple versions of Web sites for different browsers.
It is a departure from what Microsoft did in IE 7 and is seen as a move to assuage developer, regulatory and legal concerns.
The European Union has launched an antitrust investigation into Microsoft to probe complaints from Norwegian browser maker Opera Software about how Microsoft ensures rival Web browsers are not fully compatible with Internet Explorer.
Critics argue that Internet Explorer is inferior to rival browsers in terms of security, speed and navigation features and that Microsoft maintains its lead because Explorer is packaged along with the company's Windows operating system.
Microsoft also said it was making available a public test version of its Silverlight 2 multimedia technology. Silverlight 2 is the next version of Microsoft's competitor to Adobe Systems Inc.'s.
And it released a test version of Expression Studio 2, the latest version of Microsoft's software suite targeted at Web designers and developers.
(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in San Francisco; Editing by Brian Moss, Toni Reinhold)