It’s official. Microsoft will deliver the first beta test copies of the next release of the company’s dominant browser in mid-September.
Internet Explorer 9’s (IE9) exit from developer previews and entry into public beta testing will be feted on Sept. 15 with a big to-do in the Design Center at San Francisco’s cavernous Concourse Exhibition Center, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said on Thursday.
Almost as if trying to downplay the fact that Microsoft is throwing a gala that would seem to be more suited for a product going into general release instead of just the start of beta testing, the invitations, which have been sent out to a select group of press, bloggers, Web developers and designers, say the purpose of the event is to celebrate “the beauty of the Web.”
“With Internet Explorer 9, we’re upping the ante for developers, enabling them to create new designs and develop new experiences on the browser — breaking the glass ceiling of what’s possible,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to InternetNews.com.
IE9 has been through four “platform previews” for developers since March, when Microsoft delivered the first at its MIX10 Web developer and designer conference in Las Vegas.
The final platform preview was released a little over a week ago.
Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO, announced in late July that IE9 will begin beta testing next month.
Microsoft has done a lot in recent months to bang the drum about IE9, which the company hopes will help reverse the decline in market share that IE has experienced in recent years, as competitors like Firefox, Chrome and Safari have eaten away at the company’s Web dominance.
For instance, in July, Microsoft touted figures that it argued show that the current version of the browser — IE8, which shipped in March 2009 — has blocked 1 billion attempted malware downloads.
Additionally, Microsoft has also hailed recent browser market share numbers that show that IE may be slowly reversing its slide. In June and July, for example, the company cited data from Web analytics firm Net Applications that shows IE holding its own with just over 60 percent of the browser market.
High on the list of new features coming in IE9 are support for HTML5 as well as much more stringent support of Web standards. Microsoft has not yet committed to a final ship date for IE9.
Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.