Do we care about the actual progress that the company can make, or is the fascination simply because we will have something to pick apart?

No doubt, there will be those who will quickly [er, in the first couple of days after a working model is released] rip whatever Microsoft puts forth to shreds, simply because it is the generally accepted thing to do – no one has seriously thought about Microsoft being an innovator with a web browser since…ever!

But the hardware assisted things will be interesting to view, as only Microsoft knows the hooks that it can tie into with Vista and Windows 7, and it can certainly make up for a lot of otherwise sloppy coding when you have an edge that others don’t. The thing for me is that absolute speed is not the most important thing, and I have truly never liked the interface. As far back as it goes, there was always something better. From Netscape to Mosaic, from Opera to Iron, each of these offered an interface that was easier to use, more logical in its layout, or offered shortcuts which made my online activities smoother and better.

So for me, I will have to see an interface that makes me know it will offer something that others don’t – the early looks show me nothing, and the latest screen shots, from a Chinese website, make it look as though Microsoft is merely copying the things that other players like Chrome have “appropriated” from Opera. This is not my bias showing, it is fact. The Chinese shots (as well as some I later saw on Neowin) show a “speed dial” clone, which was done first in Opera (and still done best in that browser). Also, the comments in the Neowin forums seem to be surrounding the downloads page, which looks like it was mimeographed from an Opera page. That is not to say that using something that works and is popular is bad, it merely implies that if all you are doing is copying others, your job should be fast and easy.

Mary-Jo Foley, in an article today, has stated that the first actual working browser sample should be coming our way sometime in September, behind the original target of August. My thoughts are along the lines of Microsoft shows  lethargy here, strangely enough, because they undoubtedly have the largest base of browser code in the world (when you include the original stuff they lifted, quite legally, from the Mosaic browser), no doubt the largest number of coders for any browser around, and simply oodles of money for anything or anyone needed to help things along. Microsoft should be able to turn out a new browser revision in little more than a weekend – that is how far superior their resources are – yet we see the behavior of a slug, and a slug following a path already lined out on the slippery pavement.

Microsoft is readying a beta of its Internet Explorer (IE) 9 browser that it will roll out in September, according to Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner.

Turner shared the beta date during his morning keynote at the annual Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) on July 29.

According to several recent leaks, Microsoft had been targeting August as its beta delivery target for IE 9. This beta is expected to be public (as the test previews have been), and to feature more of the user interface elements.

On July 29, Neowin.net reposted some screen shots from what they believe to be a newly leaked test build of IE 9. That build includes a new download manager, but doesn’t yet feature the new user interface.

Microsoft has been making good on its promise to deliver new technology preview builds of IE 9 every eight weeks. The first IE 9 developer preview went live in mid-March. The latest IE 9 test build was released in June.

The IE 9 builds Microsoft has released so far have been developer-targeted. They include the plumbing, specifically the new Microsoft JavaScript engine (which is codenamed “Chakra”) and the new graphics subsystem, coupled with a home page full of test sites. There’s no back button and no built-in security. It’s basically the IE 9 rendering engine and early tools.

Microsoft officials have not shared a target release-to-Web date for the final version of IE9, but it is expected by many Microsoft watchers in 2011.

I’ve asked Microsoft officials if they’re ready to share any more details about IE 9. If I get any more, I’ll update this post.

Yes, the builds up until now have been little more than Microsoft slide shows, with everyone I know, that is familiar with the old Wendy’s hamburger advertisement, clamoring “Where’s the Beef?”

So, like the old lady in that ad, I’ll add my own query. Microsoft, with all the assets in house and under your control, exactly “Where is the beef?”

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In other news, Mr. Ballmer has said that a Microsoft tablet is job 1, where does that put Internet Explorer 9, and will it be only another half-hearted effort, delivered out of some insane idea that Microsoft “must” have its own browser?


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