The IE Team Blog:
To help our customers become more secure and up-to-date, we will distribute IE7 as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates (AU) shortly after the final version is released for Windows XP, planned for the fourth quarter of this year.
The blog entry adds that users will be given a option of whether to update but I suspect many people will just Install it without reading it.
This news is kind of expected and it could be considered good news for web developers – a lot of people are going to have Internet Explorer 7 by sometime in the middle of next year and we’ll be able to use things such as PNGs with alpha transparency.
From a user point of view, I’m not too sure about this. IE7 totally changes the user interface, which IMO is a step backwards, which is going to confuse a lot of people. In fact, I suspect it’ll be easier for a user to upgrade from IE6 to Firefox 2.0 than to IE7 because Firefox feels more familiar. Certainly from experience with people I know, they barely noticed Firefox 1.5 was different to IE6 but IE7 felt alien.
A couple of weeks ago, I was pondering whether I should write a post proclaiming that IE7 is actually worse than IE6. I decided not to as I wanted to await the final version before making judgement. However, I believe the current beta of IE7 is harder to use than IE6 and a lot more complex and cluttered (some of the UI matches Mozilla Suite for complexity). It does add some great new features such as tabbed browsing, feed reading, phishing protection and an integrated search box which are nice but they are paid for by the messed up interface.