Microsoft Corp is set to publicly launch Internet Explorer 8 early on Thursday, the latest version of its market-dominating Web browser.
The application, an integral part of Microsoft’s eagerly awaited Windows 7 operating system, can be downloaded from Microsoft’s website from 9 a.m. Pacific time, free for people using licensed Microsoft operating systems.
IE8, as it is commonly referred to, has been in public beta testing for about a year, but Thursday’s launch marks its full public rollout.
Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, said IE8 will run with Windows Vista, its latest operating system, and also Windows XP, the previous version which some users still prefer over Vista.
The application replaces IE7, which has a lock on the browser market. According to a recent survey by IT consultants Janco Associates Inc, Internet explorer has a 72.2 percent market share, ahead of the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox browser with 17.2 percent. Google Inc’s new Chrome browser has only 2.8 percent of the market, while Apple Inc’s Safari has less than 1 percent.
Microsoft has run afoul of U.S. and European antitrust regulators for bundling its browser with its operating system, which competitors say is an attempt to drive them out of the market.
Last month, Google joined Mozilla and Norway’s Opera in protesting Microsoft’s dominance in the browser market. In January, European regulators brought formal charges against Microsoft for abusing its dominant market position by bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with its Windows operating system, which is used in 95 percent of the world’s personal computers.
Microsoft has already announced that users of Windows 7 — expected later this year or early next year — will be able to turn key programs like Internet Explorer off, making it easier to use other browsers.
New features in IE8 include right-clicking on addresses or other Web features to go straight to a map or put into a blog or other website, which Microsoft calls an “accelerator”. Users will also be able to put in keywords in the address bar to recall sites visited related to that word.
The new browser also has enhanced security protection, for example warning users if they are about to download something from a site known to be a source of malicious software, or “malware”.