Microsoft has released a developer preview build of Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7, breaking a pattern of dragging its feet when it comes to supporting the latest version of IE on the older OS.
After shipping IE10 with Windows 8, Redmond took over a year to release a preview version that ran on Windows 7, and another three months after that to ship the final version. This, despite the fact that most other software could run on either OS without a hitch.
This time, Microsoft has offered up a Windows 7–compatible version of IE11 before the browser has technically even been released. The only way to get IE11 so far has been to install the Windows 8.1 Preview, which itself is still around a month away from shipping to OEMs.
That won't be an acceptable solution for many developers, because Microsoft has warned that anyone who installed the Windows 8.1 Preview will need to re-install all of their applications after they upgrade to the final version.
In a blog post on Thursday, group program managers Sandeep Singhal and Rob Mauceri of Microsoft's Internet Explorer team said the Windows 7 version of the browser gives users of the older OS "all of the performance, security, and under-the-hood changes that enable a compatible Web experience," which is virtually a cut-and-paste of what they said about the Windows 7 version of IE10 last November.
Coinciding with the release of the IE11 preview build, Microsoft has upgraded its modern.IE web developer tools to work with the new browser by expanding its gallery of free, downloadable virtual machine images with images of IE11 running on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Preview. In addition, Microsoft is offering 25 per cent off Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, to make it easier for OS X users to test their sites on IE.
Your Reg hack couldn't help but notice one glaring omission, however. While Redmond seems intent on delivering a version of IE11 for Windows 7, Windows 8 is notably absent from any discussion of the new browser. In fact, attempting to install the IE11 preview on a stock Windows 8 machine without the Windows 8.1 Preview installed yields the following paradoxical error message:
From the look of it, the only way to get IE11 running on Windows 8 will be to install the Windows 8.1 update when it eventually ships. It seems that when Steve Ballmer announced Microsoft's new rapid release cadence, he really meant it, and we're all expected to come along for the ride if we want the latest versions of tools like Internet Explorer.
The IE11 preview for Windows 7 is available for download from Microsoft's Internet Explorer site beginning on Thursday. ®