Will the last version of IE for XP be 8?

Windows 2000 moved from “mainstream support” to “extended support” on June 30, 2005.  About a month before that, MS made an announcement:

It should be no surprise that we do not plan on releasing IE7 for Windows 2000. One reason is where we are in the Windows 2000 lifecycle. Another is that some of the security work in IE7 relies on operating system functionality in XPSP2 that is non-trivial to port back to Windows 2000.

Which makes me wonder…

In March 2006, Bill Gates said that after IE7 (which was finally released in October 2006, over five years after IE6), “Microsoft plans to release updates to IE more frequently, perhaps as often as every 9 months to a year.”  That hasn’t happened.  They’re thinking about an IE8 beta for mid-2008 with a final release about two years after IE7.  Windows XP goes into extended support in April 2009. I highly doubt they’ll be able to squeeze out an IE9 release by then; will IE9 be Vista-only?  Or will it also be the default browser in (the still pre-alpha) ‘Windows 7‘?

Update March 20, 2010:

IE8 was released in March 2009 and was the browser in Win 7 when RTM in July 2009. IE9 will be Vista and newer ONLY because it will rely on hardware acceleration software that won’t be available for XP.

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