Cast your vote in the IE9 release date prediction pool

With today's release of the fourth and final Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview, Microsoft has entered the home stretch for its next-generation browser. Under those circumstances, there's only one thing to do: Start a pool. When do you think the final release of IE9 will be available for download?

With today's release of the fourth and final Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview, Microsoft has entered the home stretch for its next-generation browser. This release is genuinely in new territory for Microsoft. It's aggressively standards-compliant and, most notably, is the first IE release in this millennium that isn't coupled to a new Windows version. Past performance is out the window when it comes to the actual release date, and Microsoft isn't talking.

So, under those circumstances, there's only one thing to do: Start a pool. On what date will Microsoft make the final release of Internet Explorer 9 available for download by the general public? If you follow me on Twitter, you've already got a head start on the rest of the world. (But feel free to add your entry anyway, using the hashtag #ie9releasedatepool.) I've got my date picked out: January 5, 2011. That's the evening when Steve Ballmer will give the keynote address to kick off CES, and it would make a great story.

There's also a chance that Microsoft will release a public preview version after the beta, and hold the final release until its MIX Conference in April. (Sorry, Mary Jo Foley has already claimed opening day, April 12.)

A few things to think about: Microsoft has been releasing milestone builds at a pace of one every 6-8 weeks during the course of IE9's development so far. There's a lot of user interface code still to come, not to mention the bits that handles compatibility with older IE versions. It's possible that Microsoft will need several iterations before it's comfortable releasing a final version. How many such releases is anybody's guess. Two? Three? Four?

You can read through the predictions so far by doing a Twitter search for the #ie9releasedatepool hash tag. Or just take your chances in the Talkback section below. Just be sure you pick an exact date--month and day, plus year if you pick August 2011 or later.