Security updates for the older IE will continue to be produced and released, said Christopher Vaughan, a lead program manager for the browser team, in a blog entry.
"IE 6 SP1's [Service Pack 1] support policy will not change when IE 7 ships. Everywhere that IE 6 SP1 is supported today, IE 6 SP1 will continue to be supported until the OS it ships with expires," wrote Vaughan. "If you're running IE 6 for Windows XP Service Pack 2, you can stay with that version of IE for as long as Windows XP SP2 is around."
The edition of IE most in danger of disappearing from the support list is IE 6 SP1 running on Windows XP SP1, since that version of Windows will be purged Oct. 10.
Vaughan also reminded users that they won't be forced into upgrading to IE 7. "Of course, we hope our users will upgrade. But if you don't want to move, you won't have to. We will continue to keep our IE 6 customers secure for those of you who can't or don't upgrade to IE 7."
Microsoft has already announced plans to push IE 7 as a high-priority upgrade through its "automatic updates" mechanisms, but has also issued tools for blocking the migration.
The most recently released version of IE 7 is Release Candidate 1, which appeared last week. The final, Microsoft has said, will ship sometime before the end of the year.