Report: Microsoft expected to wrap up IE8 within weeks

Will declare new browser's RTM next month, says TechARP.com

Microsoft will finish Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) next month, according to a Web site that has accurately predicted other moves by the company.

TechARP.com, a Malaysian Web site that has reported on Microsoft's plans to offer free upgrades from Windows Vista to the newer Windows 7, said today that Microsoft will reach IE8's "release to manufacturing" milestone, also known as "RTM," in March.

"Microsoft will RTM Internet Explorer 8 in March 2009, most likely sometime during the last two weeks," the site said, citing unnamed sources. "This is because Microsoft plans to announce the final details of the IE8 RTM schedule and available language versions by March 5, 2009."

In development parlance, RTM means that the software has been finished and the vendor is ready to ship it to partners, release it to the public, send it to duplicators for retail distribution, or all of the above.

Microsoft declined to confirm or deny the TechARP account. "Out timeline is driven by the quality of the product," said a spokeswoman today in an e-mail reply to a request for comment. "Microsoft is deliberate in our approach to releasing new products and we feel a strong obligation to our customers to do so in a responsible manner that ensures they are getting the safest, most reliable product possible."

TechARP said that once Microsoft declares IE8 has reached RTM, it will offer it to computer makers, who can then add it to machines they ship with either Windows Vista or the older Windows XP operating systems. At the moment, the former comes with IE7, while the latter is bundled with IE6.

IE8 is also slated to be a cornerstone of Windows 7, the successor to Vista.

TechARP had no information on when Microsoft would post the final version of IE8 for public download. But the site's late-March RTM timetable meshes with past IE release schedules.

In 2006, there was a gap of eight weeks between IE7's first release candidate (RC1) and the public posting of the browser. The same eight-week stretch from Microsoft's delivery of IE8 RC1 in late January 2009 would put the final build's availability at around March 23.

IE8 includes new Web standard compatibility features, performance improvements, a revamped address bar and private browsing tools.

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Gregg Keizer

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