Microsoft has updated Windows 7 beta to fix an unknown number of reliability bugs in IE8 (Internet Explorer 8) but stopped short of saying that the browser now matches the release candidate it has already delivered to users of Windows XP and Vista.
The update, which Microsoft released Tuesday via its Windows Update service, addresses a wide range of problems that the company stuck under a "reliability" heading.
[ A Microsoft official recently explained Windows 7's enterprise features. ]
"We use the term 'reliability' to broadly encompass all types of stability problems including crashes, hangs, memory leaks, etc.," said Herman Ng, a program manager on the IE8 team, in a post to the group's blog.
Ng did not tally the bugs quashed by the update, but the accompanying support document provided some general clues. According to the support document, the update resolves eight categories of problems, ranging from crashes when resizing the browser window to crashes that result when "popular third-party extensions" are used.
Microsoft did not go so far as to call the update a release candidate, which would mean it had managed to sync IE8 on Windows 7 with the version already available to Windows XP and Vista users. After applying the update, Windows 7 still reports IE8 as "Beta."
"Most of the issues that we discovered through the [IE8] Beta are fixed in the Release Candidate 1 [RC1] which is now available for Windows Vista and Windows XP," said Ng. "[But] this update does not contain other changes introduced between the Windows 7 Beta and Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1."
Because of the timing of Windows 7's beta -- which debuted Jan. 10 -- its version of IE8 is an interim build, caught between the Beta 2 of five months ago and the RC1 of Jan. 26. Last month, James Pratt, a senior product manager on the IE development team, declined to set a ship date for IE8 RC1 on Windows 7.
Ng did provide some interesting statistics about the bugs Microsoft uncovered in IE8 on Windows 7, however. According to Ng, 10 percent of beta users have experienced a reliability problem of one sort or another, while 1.5 percent of all IE8 browsing sessions resulted in a crash.
"This is relatively good for a pre-release version of Internet Explorer running on a beta operating system," Ng said.
Earlier this month, an often-reliable Web site said that Microsoft would wrap up IE8 development next month , and perhaps have a "release-to-manufacturing" (RTM) build ready by as early as March 6. Tuesday, however, the Windows enthusiast site Neowin.net cited a Russian source who claimed that Microsoft had signed off on IE8 RTM last Saturday, Feb. 21.
Microsoft has refused to set a public release schedule for IE8. Last week, for instance, a company spokeswoman would only say, "Our timeline is driven by the quality of the product."
Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.