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Microsoft Releases IE 9 Install Tools for Organizations

Internet Explorer 9 reached 2.35 million downloads within 24 hours after its release on Monday night, according to Microsoft.

Even before reaching release-to-Web status, IE 9 was already setting Microsoft records. According to Ryan Gavin, senior director of IE business and marketing, IE 9 had been downloaded over 40 million times as a beta and release candidate (RC).

The browser can be downloaded here or at the Internet Explorer home page here, for those running Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating systems. IE 9 doesn't run on Windows XP, which is still the most widely used OS. Those using the RC version of IE 9 will get an upgrade rated "important" through the Windows Automatic Update system.

IT pros who want to block or control the delivery of the new browser have a number of options. They don't have to worry too much because, rather than automatically installing IE 9, a screen will appear with options such as "install," "don't install" and "ask me later," according to a Microsoft FAQ, which describes the new IE 9 Blocker Toolkit. This toolkit is currently available at the Microsoft Download Center here.

The IE 9 Blocker Toolkit will permanently block delivery of IE 9, but it's not necessary to use if IT organizations use Microsoft's free Windows Server Update Services or Microsoft's management products such as System Center Configuration Manager or System Management Server 2003.

Microsoft recommends against turning off Automatic Updates in Windows as a solution to blocking the delivery of IE 9. Automatic Updates also delivers crucial security updates for Windows-based systems.

Organizations can prepare to deploy IE 9 by following four basic steps, according to Microsoft blogger Simon May. The Microsoft Assessment and Planning toolkit 5.5 can be used to inventory software already deployed (video). The Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (download) can be used to check for potential application compatibility problems. Finally, image packaging of IE 9 can be customized using the IE Administration Kit (download), now at version 9.

Microsoft's Springboard portal on IE 9 provides information and links to tools for deploying the new browser. The ever-helpful Eric Ligman, blogging on Microsoft partner issues, created a compendium of IE 9 links in this blog post. His post points to downloads for specific Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 editions and versions, as well links to IE 9 Language Packs.

Another helpful resource for IT pros deploying IE 9 is a Microsoft TechNet library FAQ. Microsoft suggests that organizations just migrating to Windows 7 and IE 8 can safely skip IE 8 and move to IE 9 during that migration. For those trying to test applications based on IE 7 to see if they will work on IE 8, the FAQ suggests using desktop virtualization as installing two versions of the browser on the same machine isn't supported in Windows.

Adding IE 9 requires installing an update first, but the update gets automatically installed along with the browser bits through the Automatic Update process, the FAQ explains. However, this update needs to be added to Windows 7 images if IT pros are including IE 9 for distribution. This same advice applies with updates delivered through Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010.

A caveat after installing IE 9, as noted by Microsoft developer evangelist Jim O'Neil, is that the browser may not automatically use hardware acceleration. It may use software emulation instead. Hardware acceleration using the machine's graphics processing units (GPUs) is what gives IE 9 its speed benefits, as frequently showcased in Microsoft's demos.

O'Neil explained in a blog post that IE 9 checks a Microsoft-compiled list of GPUs and driver combinations and determines whether to use hardware acceleration or the software equivalent, based on speed considerations. IE 9's performance may be slower with the software emulation. O'Neil provides some advice on checking to see if you have the latest GPU device drivers from the hardware manufacturer installed on your machines as one possible way to try to address performance issues with IE 9.

Microsoft is also claiming that using IE 9 with its Bing search engine makes using Bing more like using an application. Bing running on IE 9 shows greater responsiveness to user actions and enables enhanced search, according to a Microsoft video.

IE 9 supports Google's open source WebM codec for video playback, in addition to the H.264 video codec. To play videos in IE 9 using the WebM VP8-based codec, users need to install "WebM Components for IE 9" in Windows first, according to a Microsoft blog post.

WebM Components for IE 9 is currently available, but only as a preview build right now. It can be installed on machines running Windows Vista or Windows 7. More information is available here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.