UPDATE: Microsoft: IE 9 Will Not Require Windows 7 SP1, but Don't Wait
Despite the excitement of last week's beta debut of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft wants organizations moving to Windows 7 to use its Internet Explorer 8 browser.
(Editor's note: Microsoft changed its IE 9 FAQ on Thursday. The FAQ now states that "Internet Explorer 9 will install on systems that have either Windows 7 RTM or Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 (SP1) installed." Earlier the FAQ had said that Windows 7 SP1 would be required. - KM)
This Windows 7 plus IE 8 combination will enable an upgrade path to Internet Explorer 9 when it is released to the Web in a final form, according to a Microsoft blog post. The blog claims that application compatibility between the two IE browser versions will be high.
"Until the final code of Internet Explorer 9 is released to the web (RTW), we recommend businesses first move to Windows 7 Enterprise with Internet Explorer 8 so they can immediately benefit from the enhanced security, manageability, web standardization, and lifecycle support that Internet Explorer 8 brings to enterprise browsing, today," the blog states.
In another blog post, Microsoft claimed that organizations should not delay their Windows 7 rollouts in order to wait for the IE 9 RTW version. If Microsoft follows a typical rollout scenario, that IE 9 RTM release might happen early next year, but Microsoft has not yet announced the actual release date.
In the past, Microsoft has insisted that Internet Explorer is a feature of Windows. However the OS and the browser have been released as separate solutions at various noncoinciding points in time throughout Microsoft's release history. According to a Microsoft spokesperson via e-mail, "the release of Internet Explorer 9 is not dependent on any future release of Windows."
Organizations shouldn't wait for the first service pack of Windows 7 to arrive before deploying the new operating system, according to the Microsoft spokesperson.
"Service Pack 1 will be released within the first half of calendar year 2011, however, customers should not feel like they need to wait for SP1," the spokesperson stated via e-mail. "Windows 7 is a high quality release and provides many benefits to consumers and businesses alike. SP1 will include all updates previously available to Windows 7 users through Windows Update, so there is no reason to wait or delay their use of Windows 7."
The first service pack for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is currently available as a beta release. It contains just two new virtualization features, "dynamic memory" and "RemoteFX," plus cumulative updates. It has no new Windows 7-specific features and none are planned by Microsoft.
Microsoft released IE 9 as a beta this month. The company claims that more than two million copies of the IE 9 beta were downloaded in two days' time. Like all betas, it's for testing purposes only. Installing the beta will replace IE 8 without warning the user, which represents another reason to isolate IE 9 from the production environment. The only way for the two browsers to run side by side on a single desktop is through virtualization, the IE 9 FAQ explains.
On the plus side, though, the IE 9 beta installation will inherit the user's settings and bookmarks (or "favorites") automatically from IE 8.
A common factor shared by IE 9 and IE 8 that can aid intranet Web site compatibility for organizations is that both browsers have "compatibility view" buttons that revert to Internet Explorer 7 rendering. Organizations thus won't have to retest their browser-based intranet applications (if they work on IE 7) when migrating to IE 9, the IE 9 FAQ claims.
IT pros can expect to see some new administrative tools appearing closer to the IE 9 RTW date. Those tools, which aren't available now, will include "the Blocker Toolkit, Internet Explorer Administration Kit, Unattend.xml settings, support for more languages, and the Internet Explorer Compatibility Test Tool in the Application Compatibility Toolkit," according to the IE 9 FAQ.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.