Microsoft has confirmed rumors that it is releasing the next version of its Internet Explorer browser on March 14. The company will hold a launch party in Austin, Texas during the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi), but not before a press briefing where IE senior director Ryan Gavin says there will still be "a few surprises."

The launch comes one year after Microsoft delivered the browser's first platform preview, a bare-bones early build that lacked an interface and basic navigation tools. Among the new features in IE9 is a refreshed look, better integration with the Windows 7 Jump List feature, better HTML5 support, performance improvements particularly in JavaScript execution, graphics hardware acceleration and a tracking protection feature.

Microsoft is hoping to stop the bleeding of browser market share to competitors like Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox. With beta and RC versions of Internet Explorer 9 reportedly getting some 36 million downloads over the past seven months, the company seems fairly optimistic about the upcoming release – not to mention it appears likely that they'll manage to beat Mozilla to the upgrade punch after the numerous Firefox 4 delays.

The browser will be available for download Monday from Microsoft's servers beginning at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. It will be offered only to users of Windows Vista and Windows 7, leaving users of XP behind with Internet Explorer 8.