Microsoft plans to offer one more public test version of Internet Explorer 8 before releasing the final version of the updated browser, the company said late Wednesday.
The next test, essentially a "release candidate" version will come in the first quarter of 2009. That means the final release won't hit Microsoft's initial goal of finishing the browser this year.
"Our next public release of IE (typically called a "release candidate") indicates the end of the beta period," general manager Dean Hachamovitch said in a blog posting. "We want the technical community of people and organizations interested in Web browsers to take this update as a strong signal that IE8 is effectively complete and done."
Microsoft first demonstrated the browser at the Mix conference in March. Among its improvements are malware protection, better standards support, and the ability to carve off a piece of a Web page, known as a Web slice. It also supports having private sessions that don't get logged in a browser's history.
The first beta version was released in March, with a second beta arriving over the summer.
Hachamovitch said that Web site developers should test their sites and report "any critical issues" to Microsoft.
"We will be very selective about what changes we make between the next update and final release," he wrote. "We will act on the most critical issues. We will be super clear about product changes we make between the update and the final release."
Hachamovitch also called on technical users to download the current beta 2 version and let Microsoft know how that goes.