Dean at Microsoft’s IEBlog reports that Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 (and more) Available:
This evening we released IE7 Beta 2 at http://www.microsoft.com/ie. This release is not the preview or the update to the preview, but the real Beta 2 of IE7 for Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1, and Windows XP 64-bit Edition. Simply: please try it.
For those of you outside the United States, we will release German, Finnish, Arabic, and Japanese versions over the next three weeks.
For this Beta 2 release, we’re taking the extra step of offering no-charge phone support to consumers in North America, Germany and Japan. We’re offering phone support to encourage people who usually shy away from beta software to try IE7 Beta 2. We believe that IE7 – even at this beta stage – is a significant improvement and we want as many people as possible to try it and use it. IE7 is feature complete and has been through significant compatibility and reliability testing. People (especially technology enthusiasts) will have a good experience with it.
What’s next? Windows Vista Beta 2, and then Beta 3 of IE7, release candidates, and then a final release before end of year.
Per the post, this is mostly a bug fix release of the beta. Mary Jo Foley has more at Microsoft Watch:
IE 7 Beta 2 follows on the heels of two different browser versions labeled as “IE 7 Beta 2 Preview.” Microsoft distributed these builds, which ran on XP SP2 only, in February 2006 and March 2006.
Testers who worked with either of these builds will not see any noticeable changes in IE 7, according to Gary Schare, director of IE product management.
There will be a new build of IE 7 that will be part of Vista Beta 2, which testers are expecting to arrive in May, that will leapfrog the IE 7 Beta 2 code. And there will be an IE 7 Beta 3 that will leapfrog the Vista Beta 2 IE build, Schare said.
Microsoft is still sticking to its planned “latter half of 2006″ ship-date target for the standalone versions of the browser, according to Schare. The company is planning to make the next version of IE, whatever it ultimately is called, available within 18 months of the time that the final IE 7 product ships, he reconfirmed.
Update: Paul Thurrott already has a review.