This was supposed to be announced today, but someone (Walt Mossberg, based on my RSS feeds, but I could be wrong) broke the NDA, so Microsoft allowed reviewers to start posting earlier. Here's my take on the news from WinInfo:

Microsoft will release its newest web browser, Internet Explorer 8, today at noon EST, for users of Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003, and Server 2008. The application will also be included with Windows 7, the next version of Microsoft's client OS, which is due in Q3 2009. Microsoft describes IE 8 as faster, more secure, more reliable, and more functional than its predecessor and these claims have been borne out in my own testing. The question about IE 8, however, is whether it can best competing browsers from Mozilla and Google.

"Customers have made clear what they want in a web browser--safety, speed and greater ease of use," says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "With Internet Explorer 8, we are delivering a browser that gets people to the information they need, fast, and provides protection that no other browser can match."

IE 8 includes a pervasive set of security controls, and Microsoft claims that the browser is 2 to 4 times as effective at preventing malware attacks as are other browsers. The company told me that one in 40 users of pre-release IE 8 versions since Beta 2 were saved from potential malware attacks because of this functionality.

While most web browser users expect certain levels of security, reliability, and performance, where IE 8 really shines is with its in-application functionality. The browsers offers visual search capabilities where you can see images in the search box drop-down, new features like Web Slices and Accelerators that allow users to interact with web sites and services in new and interesting ways, and an evolution of tabbed browsing that colorizes related tabs and provides a way to get back to previously visited sites that are closed inadvertently.

IE 8 is also far more compliant with existing web standards than were previous IE versions, though it arguably falls short of the competition in this area. The browser can also render web sites like IE 7 if required, and do so automatically providing users with seamless web compatibility. As sites are updated to work with IE 8's standards-based rendering mode, the browser will switch over silently, with no user intervention required.

IE 8 will be made available in 25 languages at noon today. For more information--and for the free download--please visit the Microsoft web site.

My review of IE 8 will appear over the course of the day on the SuperSite for Windows. The first two parts are already available.