image With all of the excitement around Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 announcements coming later today (January 7, 2009), it’s easy to forget that there are many other important updates on the near horizon (even nearer than Windows 7); one of them being the new version of Internet Explorer: IE 8. 

The IE Team put a blog entry up today (with lots of screenshots.  I know how you like pictures) announcing the availability of the “Blocker Toolkit”, which “disables the automatic installation of Internet Explorer 8”. 

“Huh?  Even before they release it, they have a tool to block it?”

Sounds crazy, I know.  But not really if you’ve been through this before (and most of us have).  The same thing happened with IE 7.  Internet Explorer is being released as an update; meaning it will be installed for you automagically through Microsoft Update or Windows Update if you have enabled automatic updates.  And while that’s fine for most consumers and some businesses, there are many of us who need to have a tight reign on what is being installed if it has a potential impact on how their business-critical applications work, or employee productivity is impacted. 

So to help address this – to give businesses the time to test their web-based or other browser-dependent applications – the IE team has created this tool that basically tweaks the registry to block the automatic installation of IE 8.  There is no timeout on the block, and you can just as easily remove it when you’re ready to allow the update.

Their blog post does a great job of outlining the specific scenarios for how IE 8 will be distributed when it’s available, and how the toolkit can help.

“But, if I’m using WSUS, I’m controlling the updates anyway, right?”

That’s right.  Those of you who are using good update management and deployment tools like WSUS, SMS, or SCCM to regulate and “approve” updates before they’re dispersed are already doing what you need to do.  You won’t need the IE 8 Blocker Toolkit.

And if you still think you’ll need the tool, here’s a link to the download.

“So.. does that mean that IE 8 is coming soon?”

I hope so.  I am loving Beta 2.  But there haven’t been any official announcements of availability dates that I’m aware of.  Hey, maybe SteveB will announce something** at CES this evening.  But you can safely  assume that IE8 won’t be coming out tonight, because we will want businesses who need to use the blocker toolkit to have a chance to learn about it and deploy it.

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**Disclaimer: I’m just speculating here. It’s just wishful thinking on my part.  But wouldn’t it be cool if I was right?  Watch this space for an update.