Microsoft is prepping to release the final version of Internet Explorer 9 on March 14, starting at 9 p.m. PST.
According to a March 9 posting on The Windows Blog, that final launch date would be exactly 12 months from the first Platform Preview of IE9, the company's newest browser and its latest hope in deflecting competition from aggressive upstarts such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
Microsoft recently made the Release Candidate for IE9 available at www.BeautyOfTheWeb.com. That RC incorporated some 17,000 pieces of user feedback, with an eye toward building on the browser's beta advances in performance, standards, user experience, privacy and safety. Some 25 million people downloaded the beta.
The Release Candidate supported geo-location, WebM video (with the installation of a V8 code on Windows), and playback of H.264-encoded video using the HTML5 video tag. According to the SunSpider benchmark, the RC is also 35 percent faster than IE9 beta.
At the same time Microsoft's heralding the new, it's also attempting to slam a stake through the heart of the old: The company recently launched a Website, "The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown," that encourages users to migrate from the increasingly antiquated and vulnerable browser. Despite possessing only a tiny market share in the United States (2.9 percent), IE6 continues to hold a significant portion of the market in countries such as China (34.5 percent) and South Korea (24.8 percent).
"The Web has changed significantly over the past 10 years," reads a note on the Website. "The browser has evolved to adapt to new Web technologies, and the latest versions of Internet Explorer help protect you from new attacks and threats."
IE6 may be too slow and vulnerable, but Microsoft is pouring considerable resources into ensuring that IE9 launches in suitably up-to-date form. The company has spent the past several months arguing that IE9 will leverage both HTML5 and Windows 7 to deliver rich content faster. However, Windows XP users who want to use the browser will need to upgrade to either Windows Vista or Windows 7, a development that could leave a not-insignificant amount of users in the proverbial cold.
Microsoft held a substantial lead in the browser market for many years, a development that contributed significantly to its antitrust issues with the federal government. In recent years, however, rival browsers such as Firefox have eaten into Internet Explorer's substantial lead, driving Microsoft to streamline IE9 into a more competitive animal: The new browser features a number of performance and aesthetic tweaks, such as consolidating the search and address bars, intended to give it a next-generation feel.