Just about two months after it announced the developer preview of Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7, Microsoft today launched an updated beta version of its browser. The so-called “release preview” will likely be the last beta version of IE11 for Windows 7 before the full release later this fall. In total, the company hopes, the launch will bring IE11 to “more than 50% of desktops worldwide.”
Microsoft won’t say when exactly it plans to release the Windows 7 version of IE11, but with the Windows 8.1 release on October 18, chances are IE11 for Windows 7 won’t launch too long after that.
Windows 8 users, the company reiterated in a blog post today, will have to wait for the free 8.1 update to upgrade. Microsoft won’t release a version of IE11 for those who plan to stay on Windows 8.
Today’s release is essentially just a polished version of the developer preview. Just like the Windows 8 version, IE11 will make extensive use of hardware acceleration. According to Microsoft, this new version is about 9% faster than IE10 and 5% faster than the developer preview. Microsoft also claims IE11 is 30% faster than any other browser.
With IE11, Microsoft is also finally embracing WebGL for GPU-accelerated 2D and 3D content in the browser. Given Microsoft’s focus on touch, it’s no surprise that IE11 also supports Pointer Events, a Microsoft-backed standard for handling touch input in the browser that’s currently a Candidate Recommendation at the W3C. For Windows 7 users, that’s unlikely to be a major selling point, though, given that they probably don’t use touch-enabled screens anyway.
Another area where Microsoft made some changes are IE11′s developer tools. Among these improvements are the ability to debug WebGL content from the console, improvements to the built-in debugger, a DOM explorer and the ability to find memory leaks.
The one feature Windows 7 users won’t get — besides the immersive Metro mode — is support for Google’s SPDY protocol. It’s unclear why Microsoft left this out of this version.
As with all recent IE releases, Microsoft is making virtual machine images of the IE11 release preview for Windows 7 available on modern.ie, so even web developers on the Mac can easily check if their apps run on the browser.
The Browser You Lov(ed) To Hate
Microsoft is clearly aware that the popular opinion about Internet Explorer is pretty negative. Thankfully — and unlike its anti-Google Scroogled campaign — the company has decided to embrace its underdog role. To celebrate the release of this latest version of IE11, Microsoft just launched a new video to highlight the browser’s speed as part of its Browser You Loved To Hate campaign. Enjoy.