An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including 6 million IE 9 Beta downloads, IE 9 will not require Windows 7 SP1, Microsoft CEO blows it with phones and tablets, Windows Live Essentials 2011, what's really happening with the Windows Phone launch, and why Microsoft hates Instant Search (hint: Because it didn't think of it first).

Internet Explorer 9 Beta: 6 Million Downloads and Counting

Microsoft announced this morning that its IE 9 Beta has been downloaded over 6 million times since its release two weeks ago. That's a download rate that's 2.5 times higher than that for the IE 8 beta during a similar time frame, suggesting that there's quite a bit more excitement around this release. And indeed, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. And speaking of IE 8, usage of Microsoft's current browser grew again in September, continuing a trend that's held steady for several months now. IE 8 is still the most popular browser by far, with 29 percent share, compared to Firefox 3.6, in second place with 17 percent share and third place finisher IE 6, which has 15.55 percent usage share. Rounding out the top five are IE 7 (10.4 percent) and Google Chrome (5 percent).

Actually, Internet Explorer 9 Will Not Require Service Pack 1 on Windows 7

Last week, I reported that the final shipping version of IE 9 would require Service Pack 1 on Windows 7, which as you know won't even ship until sometime next year. The reason I reported this is that Microsoft said this would be the requirement. But since then, the software giant has corrected that, and it's now saying that the final version of IE 9 will install just fine on the shipping version of Windows 7 and will not require SP1. No word yet on when any of this is going to happen, but a release at the MIX'11 conference in March does make a lot of sense ... for both SP1 and IE 9.

Microsoft CEO Falls Short of Expectations, Sees Bonus Trimmed

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer received a cash bonus of $670,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, equal to about half his annual salary. But that figure is also half of the maximum bonus he could have received. Why no love? The company noted the failure of the KIN launch, the loss of smart phone market share, the lack of innovation around new form factors (read: iPad-like tablet devices). On the other hand, it wasn't all bad: Ballmer also presided over the company during its highest-ever sales period, thanks to the releases of Windows 7 and Office 2010 during that time.

Windows Live Essentials 2011 is Now Available

Microsoft quietly delivered the final shipping version of Windows Live Essentials 2011 on Thursday. This consumer-oriented suite for Windows Vista and 7 includes new versions of the Photo Gallery, Writer, Movie Maker, Messenger, Mail, and Outlook Connector Pack applications, and the Windows Live Mesh, Family Safety, Messenger Companion, and Family Safety services, many of which were previously bundled directly with Windows. You can download the suite from the Microsoft web site.

Microsoft Sows Confusion About the Windows Phone Launch

Microsoft could quickly end this silliness simply by announcing what they're doing. But they haven't. So let me clear the air. I don't know anything about the European launch of Windows Phone 7. But I can tell you that the previous US Windows Phone launch date I revealed, November 8, is correct. However, the October 11 date you've seen elsewhere is also correct, sort of. That's when Microsoft will announce the phones that will ship in the US this year. But the actual product launch won't until November 8. As previously reported.

Microsoft Search Poo-Bah Poo-Poo's Google's Instant Search

If you've ever watched the series "Deadwood" you may recall a great scene where they're stringing wires into the town so that they can communicate with others instantly via telegraph for the first time. Why would someone want to do such a thing, one of the main characters ponders. After all, with the previous, slower forms of communications, you had a chance to formulate a thoughtful discussion. And so it is this week with Yusuf Mehdi, cast in the role of Deadwood's Al Swearengen, unclear on why Google's Instant Search is such a big deal. "It's about getting what you want accomplished," Mehdi said. "It's not about getting a lot more results." According to Mehdi, Instant Search increases the number of results that people get when searching but doesn't actually help them finish the task they're trying to complete. I hear what he's saying. But I think people are going to be blown away by Instant Search for better or worse.

This week, on the Windows Weekly podcast

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday. It should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, as always.

But wait, there's more

If you enjoy Short Takes, I've begun a similar series of blogs, called Daily Update, on the SuperSite Blog. They appear each day and vary in length according to what's going on in the world. For example, here are some links to this week's posts: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog.

My next book, Windows Phone Secrets is now complete and will ship in late October.