Microsoft today released a final version of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) for Windows 7, nearly two years after it introduced the browser at a company conference.
Customers who had earlier installed the IE10 preview will be the first to receive the upgrade through Windows Update. Others running IE9 on Windows 7 will be automatically upgraded "in the weeks ahead," according to the company, which did not get more specific than that about a timetable.
That day can't come too soon for many Windows 7 users, who have taken almost every opportunity to ask Microsoft -- most often in comments on company blogs -- when the new browser would reach them.
But IE10's debut was later than some analysts had once expected.
In April 2011, when Microsoft announced IE10 just weeks after the launch of IE9, analysts concluded that the company was moving to an annual release cycle. That did not happen -- IE10's debut came about two years after IE9, which appeared two years after IE8 -- although rumors of accelerated development have again surfaced.
Last week, the Chinese website Win8China posted screenshots it claimed were of a Windows 8 upgrade, currently tagged with the code name "Blue," set for an August release. One of the screenshots referenced "IE11."
IE10 is the first browser released by Microsoft since it changed its upgrade policy in late 2011. Rather than seek user approval before upgrading IE -- the previous practice -- Microsoft adopted a Google Chrome-like "silent" scheme that automatically installs the newest browser suitable for that version of Windows.
IE10 supports only Windows 8 and Windows 7, leaving Windows Vista stuck with IE9, just as Windows XP has been frozen at IE8.
While Microsoft today touted IE10's performance and its increased support for Web standards, the most publicized feature in the browser has been its "Do Not Track" (DNT) privacy setting, which Microsoft has switched on by default.
The move raised a ruckus as the online ad industry, large advertisers like Coca-Cola, and some of the biggest Web properties, such as Yahoo, not only objected to IE10's on-by-default setting, but decided they would not honour the signal.
The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) standards-setting organization, tasked with coming up with a DNT standard, has essentially deadlocked over Microsoft's unilateral decision.
Until today, IE10's DNT position has been relatively easy for opponents to ignore, since the browser was available only on Windows 8, which has had trouble gaining ground. But the automatic upgrading of Windows 7 machines to IE10 means that some 700 million PCs may soon be sending a DNT signal.
IE10 requires Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), as Microsoft will drop support for Windows 7 RTM in April.
Businesses can prevent IE10 from being automatically installed on their machines by deploying the blocking toolkit Microsoft issued earlier this month, or by using the standard update management tools, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or Systems Management Server (SMS).
Users who don't want to wait for Windows Update to kick in with the upgrade can downloaded IE10 manually from Microsoft's website.