Microsoft quickens browser pace with IE10, goes for annual upgrades

But IE10's Platform Preview runs only on Windows 7, gives Vista the cold shoulder

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Not that Hachamovitch saw the need to match his rivals. Although he did not name names during his MIX11 keynote, Hachamovitch aimed a salvo at the rapid release schedules of Chrome and Mozilla.

"What's important is progress over time," Hachamovitch said. "Cadence is just releases per time, how often the updates shift. Increased cadence just means bigger version numbers and more frequent updates of incomplete software. The key factor is how substantial each release is, how much progress each release makes."

Hilwa said Hachamovitch had a point. "To some extent it's true that [multiple releases don't] always mean there's a lot of progress," Hilwa said.

Even though IE won't match Chrome's or Firefox's release rhythm, Microsoft's faster tempo is an attempt to serve conflicting masters: Consumers who want frequent upgrades to keep them competitive and enterprises that resist change.

Because IE has the bulk of the corporate market, Hilwa said, he expects that companies may skip an upgrade to stick with a more manageable two-year-cycle. By quickening the release pace, Microsoft hopes to retain more consumers and give businesses the option of taking an annual refresh, or as they often do with Office, delaying until the next edition comes along.

User may have to make up their minds sooner than later if Microsoft is on an annual schedule. IE9 made its first public beta in September 2010, six months after the debut Platform Preview. If IE10's on that same track, people can figure on beta by October.

Hilwa likes Microsoft's approach -- put a succession of previews in developers' hands -- but not tie itself to a feature set until a beta is ready. "They don't want to be experimental in the production version," Hilwa said, "because once you put something in, then everyone assumes it's going to be in the production code."

Hachamovitch said Microsoft would issue a new Platform Preview every eight-to-12 weeks.

IE10 Platform Preview is essentially a browser engine with a minimalist wrapper, and lacks common navigation tools such as an address bar or a Back button. It can be run side-by-side with IE9, Hachamovitch said.

IE10's first preview can be downloaded from Microsoft's Test Drive site. Unlike IE9, whether the final version or its previews, the IE10 early look runs only on Windows 7.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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