Gates promises IE8 Beta 2 in August

Departing chariming touts two of the new browser's features: Activities and Web Slices

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has narrowed the release window for the second beta version of Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) to sometime in August.

During a keynote address at the Tech-Ed conference in Orlando Tuesday morning, Gates said that IE8 Beta 2 would ship that month with 20 different language-specific versions available within a month after that.

Last week, the IE development team announced that the next beta of IE would be released in the third quarter of the year, which could be anywhere between July 1 and September 30. The developers also told site administrators and Web designers to prep for the beta by adding a compatibility tag that would let IE8 users view their sites using the Microsoft-centric rendering standards of the older IE7.

Not doing so, warned the IE group, might "break" sites for users running IE8.

IE8 was released in Beta 1 nearly three months ago, but until Tuesday, Microsoft had not specified a target date for a second preview. In March, Microsoft said that the new browser would default to a standards-compliant rendering of Web content -- a step that site developers had urged on the company -- rather than a mode that stresses compatibility with IE7.

Calling IE8 a "big milestone for us" that the company is putting "renewed effort" into, Gates spent little actual time discussing the browser during his keynote. He did, however, tout two of the new browser's features: Activities and Web Slices.

Both features, which Microsoft trumpeted when it first rolled out Beta 1, will be developer-, not user-created. Activities, a small-scale mash-up tool, lets developers designate selected keywords for one-button use in other online services, such as an eBay auction search. Webslices, on the other hand, resemble the Web Clip feature introduced in Apple Inc.'s Safari with Mac OS X 10.5; they let users subscribe to small content chunks within a site.

According to the most recent browser share data from metrics firm Net Applications, IE accounted for 73.8 percent of all browsers used last month. IE8, however, held just a .03 percent share, less than one-twentieth the .63 percent share owned by Firefox 3.0, the Mozilla browser that also has yet to release in final form.

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