"A beta version of Internet Explorer 8 will be released in the first half of 2008," said a developer writing on Microsoft's Explorer blog.
Currently in development, Explorer 8 hit a major milestone in December when it passed the "Acid2 Face" test, which measures the extent to which a browser conforms to a series of widely used Web standards. Among the enhancements planned for IE 8 are improved support for Ajax programming and better security, Microsoft has said.
Microsoft also needs to ensure that Explorer 8 will be compatible with Web sites designed for earlier versions of the software. A number of corporate IT departments, as well as the federal Department of Transportation, have shied away from IE 7 -- released in October 2006 -- due to such concerns.
Explorer 8 is just one of numerous products that Microsoft plans to release in the months ahead. On Wednesday, the company plans to formally launch Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 at an event in Los Angeles.
Later this year, Microsoft will release Small Business Server 2008. It's also planning to ship a public beta of its Silverlight 2 Web presentation technology in the coming weeks.
All of this comes at a time when Microsoft is engaged in a high stakes bid for its Internet rival Yahoo. Microsoft has offered more then $40 billion for Yahoo, but so far the board of directors at the Web portal have rejected the pitch.
Some analysts have questioned whether Microsoft would be able to keep all of its product development schedules on track while at the same time attempting to close and integrate a multi-billion dollar acquisition.