Internet Explorer 8 shipping this year, Windows 7 still on track

At Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting Thursday, Bill Veghte, who heads up the company's Windows and online services division, said that Windows 7 is progressing well and confirmed that Internet Explorer 8 will ship before the end of the year.

Beta 2 of IE8 is slated for release next month, with a focus on new features for consumers and IT professionals. The first beta -- released in March -- was focused largely on developers, and Microsoft said the long delay between betas was due to the heavy feedback it received.

Until Thursday, however, Microsoft had remained cagey about when IE8 would become available for the general public. Veghte demoed the updated browser to FAM attendees, noting that a final build will ship "later this year." Microsoft hasn't said whether there will be a third beta before IE8 launches.

There are now two preparatory Web sites for building anticipation around IE8, the newest being a heavily revised Internet Explorer Developer Center on MSDN. This comes in addition to the marketing Web site for users, which continues to show pictures of IE8 Beta 1.

Veghte also discussed Windows 7 on Thursday, saying that "the product is tracking very, very well." He didn't discuss any features of the new operating system, on which Microsoft has largely remained silent, but said development was looking good.

Veghte expects Windows 7 to meet Microsoft's commitment of "three years from general availability of Windows Vista." That indicates it will become available to consumers in early 2010. Microsoft began talking about Windows 7 for the first time in late May, although hasn't provided many specifics.

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