Internet Explorer 9 launches on March 14 after proving popular with testers

Internet Explorer 9 InterfaceExplorerMicrosoft announced today that the final version of Internet Explorer 9 will be available on March 14 at 9 p.m. Pacific time, marking the end to several months of testing of its bold new browser design.

Microsoft will be celebrating the browser’s launch in style with a huge party at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. And the celebration may be deserved, as it seems Microsoft may have a major hit on its hands with IE9.

The beta version of the browser saw over 2 million downloads in its first two days available, which was nearly twice the amount of downloads that Internet Explorer 8’s beta received in its first five days. As of February, when the browser left its beta phase and stepped into “Release Candidate” status (the final step before a program’s final release), Internet Explorer 9 was downloaded over 25 million times.

IE9 is a major departure for Microsoft. The browser sports a minimalist design that resembles Google’s Chrome browser, and it packs in modern browser capabilities like a fast Javascript rendering engine and support for HTML5. IE9 also includes hardware acceleration for web-page rendering (it uses your graphics processor to do some of the work) — something that even geek-friendly browsers like Chrome and Firefox have yet to roll out (though it’s coming soon to both).

The browser will also allow for a more interactive experience with Microsoft’s Bing Search engine. You’ll be able to do things like zoom into Bing’s gorgeous background images, or play video in the site’s background.

Internet Explorer 9’s new interface and features could help Microsoft retain its lead with 57 percent of global browser share. The browser has been dropping steadily in market share since the rise of Mozilla’s Firefox browser and Google Chrome (which is also stealing away users from Firefox).