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Ready or not: Microsoft preps early delivery of IE10 for Windows 7

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Get ready for Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 – it’s coming sooner than you might expect and faster than Microsoft had planned.

Microsoft’s IE team has accelerated its ship date for IE10 on Windows 7 and is now targeting “end of February/beginning of March”, sources tell The Reg.

According to the insiders, the IE unit had previously been planning to release the newest Microsoft browser at the end of March.

We understand the acceleration was made possible thanks to the fact the IE team has been able to fully concentrate its efforts on reverse-engineering IE10 in the wake of Windows 8’s shipment. Before, they’d been involved on making IE10 work on Windows 8 and Surface, as the IE team is part of the Windows group.

The Reg contacted Microsoft to confirm the existing and changed dates but company spokesperson said there was "nothing to share on timing".

An end-of-February-beginning-of-March release is reinforced by events: Microsoft delivered its IE10 for Windows 7 automatic update blocker toolkit on 30 January. The organisation also released the update blocker for IE9 a month before that browser was pushed out back in 2011.

IE10 is, of course, the default browser for Windows 8 and Surface slabs, both of which arrived to indifference, blame and recrimination in October last year. IE10 has two personalities: one for Metro-based touch on Surface and PCs and a “classic” mode to handle mousy apps on PC. The classic version is coming to Windows 7.

The first consumers should automatically start getting IE10 on their Windows 7 machines within a few weeks – from mid-March onwards. Microsoft rolls such updates through its Windows update service, delivering updates in batches on a regional and country basis so as not to overload its download infrastructure and to contain and solve any incompatibility problems that may arise.

But large organisations will be able to hold back the slowly rising tide through use of the update blocker and through their corporate administration policies.

It's corporates that will likely resist the longest: many are running Windows XP and only just migrating to Windows 7. In that move, they are finally dumping IE6 and IE7 and moving to Internet Explorer 8 or 9 – mostly the latter, which is newer and offers more compatibility with web standards. IE9 introduced support for HTML5 audio and video, and greater support for Canvas and SVG.

Microsoft’s IE team will be anxious to get IE10 on as many PCs as possible given the work, time, money and prestige tied up in the new browser, and will want to capitalise on the Windows 7 upgrade wave.

None of this will cut any ice with conservative corporates.

IE10 is the company’s newest and least-used browser thanks to the fact Windows 8 has sold so badly – it accounts for just 2 per cent of PC operating systems four months after launch versus the 5 per cent penetration achieved by Windows 7 the same time after Win7's launch.

Businesses won’t want to pick up a browser that’s not being used and, also, one which risks application incompatibility, potentially breaking their own apps. They will investigate the new browser thoroughly before rolling it out.

Microsoft’s IE team has given its usual shopping list of reasons to upgrade to IE10 here – faster, more secure, better support for HTML5 - but at this point in the browser wars, there’s little to differentiate between them.

On the HTML5 claim, the spec is actually still unfinished, so all the browser-makers are building their own take on the spec and inserting huge placeholders on bits that can and will change. That means developers must code appropriately, meaning they are still getting locked into each manufacturer’s browser.

Thanks to the Windows 7-driven Windows XP upgrades, IE9 is now on more than half of Windows 7 PCs. Given upgrades are only just happening it’s also unlikely cautious enterprises that have only just switched to IE9 will change their browsers for years - long after IE10 has been superseded.

And, thanks to the fact there’s very little to choose between IE9 and IE10, there’s actually even less reason to switch. ®

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