With the new preview, Microsoft is giving its largest swath of customers their first taste of IE 11, which has been available to other groups for several months. Windows 8 users have had access to an early version of the browser since June, when it debuted as part of the Windows 8.1 preview. Microsoft also released an IE 11 Developer Preview for Windows 7 in July.
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Past versions of IE developed a reputation for poor security and sluggish performance. Although the browser continues to face security risks, the most recent versions are substantial improvements. IE continues to dominate other browsers in market share and has modestly increased its share over the last year, according to Net Applications. In August, the Web-tracking company found that IE versions aggregately accounted for almost 58% of desktop browsers, with IE 8 and IE 10 each claiming around one-fifth of users.
Nevertheless, Microsoft recognizes that IE's image still need rehabilitating, especially as more browser usage shifts to mobile devices. To do so, the company is embracing IE's shaky reputation; it's launched not only a tongue-in-cheek website, www.browseryoulovedtohate.com, but also a video in which customers recount their negative perceptions of IE only to be impressed by IE 11's features.
The video focuses largely on touch functions, which matter more to potential Windows 8.1 customers than to Windows 7 users, who make up the biggest chunk of Microsoft's Windows business. Still, IE 11 promises non-touch users better performance and more extensive support of open standards, neither of which are insignificant upgrades.
Moreover, if Microsoft delivers IE 11 for Windows 7 this fall, it will have launched two major IE upgrades in less than a year. IE 10 had been on the market with Windows 8 for three months before Windows 7 users finally gained access, but with the newest version, Microsoft appears to be moving even faster. Retiring CEO Steve Ballmer has said a rapid release cycle will be central to the "One Microsoft" strategy around which the company is currently being reorganized, and IE 11 suggests Microsoft is becoming acclimated to the new pace.