Microsoft has confirmed plans to end development of its Web browser Internet Explorer for Mac.

The company says it will continue to support Internet Explorer 5 for Mac in future, but any additional updates will solely consist of maintenance and security releases. No new features are planned.

Microsoft's Mac Business Unit product manager Jessica Sommer said the decision was sparked by the appearance of Apple's own Mac-only Web browser, Safari.

"The feedback we're getting and the features customers are asking for all point to Apple and Safari," Sommer told MacCentral. She added that Apple has better development resources for a Mac Web browser because it owns both the browser and the operating system.

Other Macintosh products from the Microsoft stable are unaffected by the decision. The company is developing the next version of Office, and will develop its recently-acquired Virtual PC product, she said.

The news arrives just months after the end of a historic five-year agreement between Apple and Microsoft. The original agreement meant Microsoft would continue to engage in Mac development for several key products - including Office, partly in return for Apple dropping several patent-infringement suits against the PC company.

IE dropped for Windows, too However, the move may not represent a massive split between Microsoft and Apple over Safari as the software giant is also phasing out standalone versions of its Internet Explorer Web browser for Windows - according to IE program manager Brian Countryman in an interview posted on the company's Web site reported by ZDNet.

"As part of the OS (operating system), IE will continue to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations. IE6 SP1 is the final standalone installation," said Countryman.

Countryman denied suggestions that the decision to drop a standalone browser was related to antitrust issues, hinting that planned new security enhancements for the forthcoming version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, was the driving force behind the move. Longhorn is expected to include a security overhaul dubbed Next-Generation Secure Computing Base, formerly known as Palladium.