Microsoft revealed this week new details of its forthcoming Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), including several capabilities designed especially for IT shops.
The new features will include a function that enables administrators to slipstream IE8 into Windows Vista installations, new Group Policy settings to help them deal with application compatibility problems, and security modifications that let users install some browser add-ins without having to contact an administrator.
Wednesday's disclosures were made jointly in a posting on the company's IEBlog as well as to attendees at Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Tech-Ed for IT Professionals conference in Orlando, Fla.
"Over the last year we’ve surveyed over 2000 IT Professionals to understand their concerns and priorities for deploying and managing desktops and software within their organization," the blog post, by program manager Jane Maliouta and product manager James Pratt, said.
Microsoft has a history of gradually revealing more and more details of a product over time in order to drum up excitement around an upcoming release, and IE8 has been no exception.
Speaking during the first week of Tech-Ed, last Tuesday, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates revealed that the second public beta of IE8 is coming in August. It is meant to reach general availability by the end of the year. (In its 16th year, Tech-Ed has become so popular that the company split the conference in half – last week's event was for developers while this week's is for IT pros.)
The first beta test copies, designed primarily for developers, were released at the company's Mix08 conference for Web developers and designers in early March.
At that time, Microsoft officials demonstrated IE8's new default "super standards" mode – which the company says will provide the highest possible support for the latest Web standards. The company has been repeatedly criticized for lax support of Web standards in previous versions of IE over the years. However, making super standards mode the default will cause incompatibility problems with many Web sites, the company has admitted.
For IT professionals, though, that process will be simplified by changes Microsoft is making in tools that accompany IE8.
"We built IE8 with applications compatibility [and] enterprise fundamentals in mind," Pratt told InternetNews.com.
Indeed, the company has added new events to IE's Application Compatibility Toolkit that help IT staffers deal with issues between IE8 and internal applications and Web sites using new Group Policy settings that provide "great granularity," the blog post continued.
Similarly, the new slipstreaming capability is also intended to let administrators deploy disk images more easily.
"It gives you a way of building components into the [deployment] image before you ever install it so it's a great time saver," Pratt said.
In addition, the latest iteration of the Internet Explorer Administration Kit will enable IT staffers to manage and deploy customized versions of IE8, specifically for Vista and Windows Server 2008."
The new features will be included in the second IE8 beta test in August.