Microsoft declined to comment on the rumors, but we did hear that Microsoft's closest partners, including Intel, were informed that the RC would hit late this month. A beta tester published the January 28 launch date via a tweet.
So far, Microsoft has released seven platform previews of the browser, which are very basic developer versions that cannot be used in a convenient way for everyday browsing since they are missing the URL bar. In September, Microsoft released a beta version and it seems that this first beta will remain the only beta. According to Microsoft, the beta browser has been downloaded more than 20 million times.
The RC and final version of the browser cannot be released too early as IE6/IE7/IE8 now account for only 57% of browser market share and IE8's adoption rate is slowing down, according to data released by Net Applications. What is especially noteworthy is the fact that IE9 RC may be released before Mozilla can get its Firefox 4 RC out of the gate. We are still waiting for Beta 9 and Beta 10 before the first RC can be released. At the current pace, the RC may not be released until late February.