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Prepare for IE9 -- Or Not

Internet Explorer 8 may have just shipped, but last week Dean Hachamovitch who is General Manager for Internet Explorer provided some hints about what is coming with IE9. A release date wasn't one of the hints that was dropped; I think it's far away.
Internet Explorer 8 may have just shipped, but last week Dean Hachamovitch who is General Manager for Internet Explorer provided some hints about what is coming with IE9. A release date wasn't one of the hints that was dropped; I think it's far away.IE9 isn't likely to show up for a while because Microsoft has historically released major browser versions simultaneously with new operating system versions. For example, IE6 shipped with Windows XP, IE7 debuted along with Vista, and IE8 came out at the same time as Windows 7. Yes, those IE versions were available for earlier versions of Windows, but they also established a new shiny baseline for the OS released at the same time. That's an important precedent.

Microsoft likes that baseline because it provides themselves, corporations, and third-party developers with a guarantee of what they'll have on that OS platform. Remember that most of what we know as Internet Explorer is really several system components that provide features like HTML rendering, a Javascript interpreter, and support for the HTTP protocol. These components are used not only by IE, but by the operating system itself for features like Windows Explorer. Browser components are also used by third-party software developers when they want to render HTML or run Javascript inside their own applications.

If Microsoft had decided, for example, to ship IE7 with Windows 7 and release IE8 a few months later, it would have required all developers (including Microsoft itself) to test their products with two versions of IE and its components just a short time after Windows 7 was released. That, in turn, might also have given everyone another excuse to delay a move to Windows 7.

With history as our guide, it seems highly probable that we won't see IE9 until Microsoft releases its next major revamp of Windows. That blessed event would seem to be two or three years away. If Microsoft really does wait that long, Internet Explorer is in big trouble. The sneak-peak features Hachamovitch showed in the blog entry were mainly playing catch-up with the current versions of browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome. Those browsers won't be standing still while IE9 lumbers its way through the development process.