IE8 ship date gets pushed back to 2009

The current beta version of IE8 was released in August. Speculators at that time said this meant a

final version would be ready in 2008. However, Microsoft yesterday promised that the next version of IE8 will be a release candidate (RC) and will appear in the first quarter of 2009. That puts the new browser on track to ship for the first half of 2009, if a ship date can be deduced from previous development cycles for the browser, reports Computerworld.

However, some developers posting messages to IE8 team leader Dean Hachamovitch's blog are complaining that Microsoft is actually moving too fast -- if not in calendar time at least in skipping striaght to an RC instead of sending out another beta. Developers said the current beta is too buggy and too unstable to really pound on and perfect. They want to ensure that when Microsoft ships IE8, it is after developers have had a chance to submit a complete bug report and Microsoft has fixed all found problems.

Microsoft really can't wait that long. Firefox is making amazing strides in terms of market share. To be fair, IE still "owns" this market with 73% share, compared with Firefox with about 19% and all other browsers splitting the remaining 8%, according to Net Applications. But since 2004, when IE held 91% of the market, Firefox has been consistently gaining users at the expense of IE. Now Google is attempting to oust Microsoft with its new browser Chrome (in addition to supporting Mozilla). If successful, Google will gain some nice leverage to have Google Docs oust Microsoft Office in the consumer world, too ... and from there, the enterprise. Chrome doesn't own a significant part of the market, but it has a shot because Google is "in" with consumers -- the same market that IE originally captured with its infamous method of being bundled with Windows.

At the same time, Mozilla is busy working on Firefox 4, which some insiders have also speculated might be unleashed in 2009. At the rate of adoption that Firefox is experiencing, it could hold 25% of the market by the end of 2009, contends Matt Asay in his The Open Road blog.

On the other hand, speed isn't as important than stability. If Microsoft releases a buggy browser at this juncture, the mistake would be critical. Users would be motivated to adopt Firefox at even faster rates -- would we be looking at 30% Firefox market share in 2009? If enterprises standardize on Firefox over IE, that certainly could happen. And if Microsoft loses control of the browser, then Microsoft is hurt and hurt bad. The browser is the gateway to all of its next-gen initiatives, such as its software-plus-services/cloud computing offerings, its media development platform Silverlight and, of course, its struggling advertising/search business.

Enterprise Web developers will have a lot of work to do in 2009 as these browser wars heat up. Here's hoping that the RC release of IE8 proves to be solid and that Microsoft also keeps its promises of playing by the standards rules. If so, then developers will be spending their time building amazing sites that take advantage of new technologies, and not chasing down display errors between a growing assortment of browsers.

Visit the Microsoft Subnet web site for more news, blogs, podcasts. Also see:

Advocate says IPv6 will reduce global energy usage10 questions for Small Business Server/Essential Business Server guy, Russ Madlener7 Keys to cleaning up Windows with Windows 717 job-hunting resources for Windows prosGlenn Weadock on Windows Server 2008Library of Windows management tools from A Better Windows Worldall Microsoft Subnet bloggers.bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)

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