IE 10 'Preview' for Windows 7 Arriving Mid-November
Microsoft announced today that it plans to support Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 and will release a "preview" next month.
The preview of the IE 10 browser is scheduled for release in "mid-November." Microsoft hasn't disclosed a final release-to-Web date for IE 10 on Windows 7 yet. It's going to proceed based on testing feedback it gets from users, according to a Microsoft blog post attributed to Rob Mauceri, group program manager of Internet Explorer.
Microsoft has been talkative about IE 10 on Windows 8, which runs on the "desktop" and "Metro" user interface (UI) sides of the Windows 8 operating system. On Windows RT, it's thought that IE 10 runs on the desktop side or on some sort of hybrid UI mode that Microsoft calls a "Metro style enabled browser." In any case, the completed IE 10 products for Windows 8 and Windows RT will be publicly available on October 26, which is when Microsoft releases Windows 8 and its Surface Windows RT tablet -- both of which will ship with the IE 10 browser. However, this latest announcement appears to be the first discussion from Microsoft in a while about IE 10 on Windows 7, which is a much more likely use-case scenario at this point.
IE 10 on Windows 7
Many may have thought that IE 10 for Windows 7 was already available, but a "guide for developers" Microsoft document, dated from September, makes it clear that Microsoft never got past an early "platform preview" build of IE 10 for Windows 7.
"Internet Explorer 10 is not currently available for Windows 7," the guide states. "The most recent release for Windows 7 was Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview Build 2, on June 29, 2011. Therefore, you will notice that the newer features mentioned in this guide are not yet available in the most recent version of IE10 Platform Preview for Windows 7."
It is unclear, and somewhat peculiar, why it will take the Microsoft team longer to deliver IE 10 on Window 7 than on Windows 8. A Microsoft spokesperson said today via e-mail that the company had nothing to share on the matter.
IE 10 UI Differences
IE 10 will be notable for not allowing plug-ins, except for a built-in and touch-optimized Adobe Flash Player plug-in. Microsoft announced in May it would include the Flash Player for both the "desktop" and "Metro" user interfaces of Windows 8. This exception to the no plug-ins approach was made because many Web sites do not yet support native HTML 5 graphics, and they still need to depend on Flash. It's not clear at this point if IE 10 for Windows 7 will come with this built-in Flash Player or not.
It turns out that there are a lot of IE 10 nuances to track -- and that's just on the Windows 8 side. For instance, even Microsoft Cofounder Paul Allen was perplexed by how IE 10 behaves across the two Windows 8 UIs (desktop and Metro) in his review of Windows 8. Allen reviewed an early version of Windows 8, finding that bookmarks in IE 10 on one side the OS weren't available to IE 10 on the other side.
Apparently, Microsoft has solved this bookmark (or favorites) perplexity in a later build of the OS. A September-published MSDN library article on IE 10 on Windows 8 suggests as much, although RSS feeds still are stuck on one side of the Windows 8 UI.
"Your RSS feeds are only available from Internet Explorer for the desktop, but your favorites, frequent sites, history, and typed URLs are shared between the two browsing experiences," the document explains.
Instead of using the terms, "Metro" and "desktop," this library article refers to the two Windows 8 UIs as "Windows UI" and "desktop." Microsoft still hasn't said what it will call the Metro side after hinting in August that it will change the name. It's not known why Microsoft wants to change it.
There are a bunch of other IE 10 anomalies when running it on Windows 8. For those using the "Microsoft account" feature of Windows 8, IE 10's history, favorites and frequently typed URLs will roam across Windows 8 machines. Pinned sites will also be available across machines on startup, but any changes aren't synched. If sites are pinned to the desktop taskbar, they don't roam at all, according to the library article.
Moreover, which IE 10 UI is used to open a pinned site depends on which browser was specified by the Windows 8 user as the default browser. This peculiarity has to do with Microsoft's concept of a "Metro style enabled desktop browser," which has been the subject of complaints by third-party browser makers, such as Mozilla. In any case, Microsoft's document indicates that IE 10 needs to be specified as the default browser on the Metro side of Windows 8 in order to open pinned sites on the Metro side, as indicated here:
"Note: Internet Explorer in the Windows UI is a type of Metro style enabled desktop browser. As such, pinned site tiles from the new Windows UI Start screen will only open in it if it's the default Metro style enabled desktop browser -- otherwise they'll open in Internet Explorer for the desktop. The downloadable document "Developing a Metro style enabled desktop browser" from "White papers for Metro style apps" provides more info."
Security is a bit different between the Metro and desktop sides of Windows 8. A new "enhanced protected mode" in IE 10, which is a sandbox security feature that leverages Microsoft's AppContainer technology, is turned on by default on the Metro side of Windows 8, but it's turned off by default on the desktop side. According to an earlier description by Microsoft, enhanced protected mode for Windows 7 just enables 64-bit processes to run in IE 10's browser tabs, but it doesn't add any additional security protections to the browser.
This nuance about the bits and enhanced protected mode also relates the two UIs of Windows 8. The Metro-style IE 10 runs processes at 64-bit by default, but those processes are run at 32-bit by default on the desktop side. Users can change that default to 64-bit by enabling enhanced protected mode for the desktop version of the browser, provided that the underlying Windows operating system also is 64 bit, Microsoft has explained.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.