Microsoft has shipped a new version of its Internet Explorer browser to permanently change the way multimedia content is rendered on Web pages.
The cumulative non-security IE update was released Feb. 28 as an optional download for IE6 on Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and is a direct result of the multimillion-dollar patent spat with Chicago-based Eolas Technologies.
The modifications mean that IE users won't be able to directly interact with Microsoft ActiveX controls loaded by the APPLET, EMBED, or OBJECT elements without first activating the user interface with an extra mouse click.
Some widely deployed programs that use ActiveX controls within the browser include Adobe's Reader and Flash, Apple's QuickTime Player, Microsoft's Windows Media Player, RealNetworks' RealPlayer and Sun's JVM (Java Virtual Machine).
A Microsoft spokesperson said the changes will have "little to no impact on customer experience and partner applications" except for an extra mouse click in certain cases.
The company first detailed the modification plans last December after a start-stop-start-stop scenario that included a warning that the Eolas court ruling would force certain technical modifications to IE that would significantly disrupt the display of multimedia content on its dominant browser.
On Dec. 2, 2005, Microsoft changed course and notified ActiveX control vendors, OEM partners and content providers of modifications, which affects all future releases of Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
The spokesperson said all versions of IE that are currently being sold will be updated in a phased approach.
"Over the next few months, other versions will be updated and released, such as the update that went live as an optional download Feb. 28.
"These changes will also be reflected in IE7 for Windows XP and in IE7 in Windows Vista," she said.
According to Windows enthusiast site ActiveWin, localized full versions of Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1, and Windows Server 2003 R2 (including all SKUs of those products) will be released in a phased approach during March and April this year.
"At this time we are not releasing other down-level versions of IE or Windows," the spokesperson said. However, a final decision on browser revisions for Windows 2000 is still pending.
A white paper detailing the ActiveX changes has been published on the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network).
Despite the changes, Microsoft has vowed to vigorously appeal the $521 million patent infringement ruling won by Eolas and the University of California over the use of certain patents in the browser.