Despite the fact that Microsoft indicated the first quarter of 2009 as the potential deadline for the delivery of the next development milestone of Internet Explorer 8, fact is that IE7's successor is already out of Beta stage. In all fairness, however, back in mid-November 2009, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager, Internet Explorer, indicated that the next development milestone for IE8 would be made available in early 2009. Hachamovitch said nothing related to when the actual IE8 Release Candidate bits would be wrapped up.
“We will release one more public update of IE8 in the first quarter of 2009, and then follow that up with the final release. Our next public release of IE (typically called a ‘release candidate’) indicates the end of the beta period,” the IE General manager stated in November. However, a month later Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 is already available to the Redmond company's closest partners, according to TGDaily.
The End User License Agreement Terms for the development milestone indicate that IE8 RC1 is designed to integrate with Windows Vista RTM and Service Pack 1, Windows XP SP2 and SP3, Windows Server 2003 SP2 and Windows Server 2008. In this context, it still remains to be seen whether the Release Candidate of Internet Explorer 8 will be able to install on top of IE8 Beta, which ships as a part of Windows 7.
IE8 RC1 Build 8.0.6001.18343 comes to the table with increased performance and reliability, but it looks like Microsoft is simply softening up all the rough edges of the browser, while not delivering any major changes compared to Beta 2. Following IE8 Beta 2, Microsoft's main focus for the next iteration of Internet Explorer is to drive compatibility with existing websites. In this IE8 RC1 it will feature compatibility enhancements, along with InPrivate tweaks, favorites, and feeds import capabilities from Firefox and Safari.