Microsoft today confirmed that Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) will be ported to Windows 7, but declined to name a release date.
The announcement, made during a Wednesday session at the company's BUILD developers conference, was first reported by Engadget.
Earlier this month, Microsoft declined to confirm or deny that IE11 would make it to Windows 7, the most popular edition in the company's OS platform that now powers an estimated 49% of all Windows systems.
Microsoft launched a beta of IE11 Wednesday as part of the Windows 8.1 public preview. The company has not nailed down a ship date for Windows 8.1, saying only that it would appear this fall. If the company mimics the schedule of 2012's Windows 8, the free upgrade -- and thus IE11 on Windows 8 and Windows RT -- will release in late October.
The timing for IE11 on Windows 7 is also a mystery. "Internet Explorer 11 will be available for Windows 7, but we do not have anything to share today regarding timing," a spokeswoman said in an email reply to questions Thursday.
Again, assuming a schedule similar to IE10's, which launched alongside Windows 8 on Oct. 26, 2012 and debuted on Windows 7 on Feb. 26, 2013, Microsoft could roll out IE11 for Windows 7 about four months after it debuts the browser in Windows 8.1.
In that timetable, IE11 for Windows 7 could preview as early as mid-November.
Microsoft did not reveal that IE11 will come to Windows 7 in a Wednesday blog attributed to Dean Hachamovitch, IE's top executive, prompting several readers to ask about plans for the new browser on Windows 7.
"How many years of begging will it take to get a Windows 7 version this time?" asked someone identified only as "Arieta" in an early comment.
Those questions weren't surprising: Last year, users asked the same about IE10 in comments appended to most Microsoft blog posts about that year's browser. Some aggressively criticized the company's refusal to name a timetable, with one commenter calling the delay "unfathomable."
Microsoft's confirmation today of IE11 on Windows 7 puts to rest speculation by Computerworld that the company might continue to tighten system requirements and make IE11 Windows 8-only.
There was precedent for the conjecture: The two prior Microsoft browsers each ditched an operating system from its system requirements. IE9, which launched in 2009, supported only Vista and Windows 7, ignoring the even-then-aged Windows XP. Meanwhile, 2011's IE10 dumped Vista from the list, running on just Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Hachamovitch ticked off several new features in IE11, including an improvement in touch responsiveness, live site tiles that display information from websites on the Start Screen, and support for the open-source WebGL 3-D graphics acceleration standard. Just two years ago, Microsoft scorned WebGL as unsafe. At the time, Microsoft said, "We believe that WebGL will likely become an ongoing source of hard-to-fix vulnerabilities," and added that, contrary to rivals Chrome and Firefox, IE would not support the standard.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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