Microsoft touts 'browser with no name' in Windows Phone 7

At its MIX Web developer conference this week Microsoft had little to say about the unnamed browser in Windows Phone 7, even as it trumpeted a limited "preview" release of desktop Internet Ex

The mobile Web browser featured on Windows Phone 7 devices will be a "vast improvement" over the browser currently running on existing Windows Mobile 6.5 devices.

That older browser, IE Mobile 6, released in 2009, was itself a pretty vast improvement for long-suffering Windows Mobile users. That's because IEM6 was the first to offer a full HTML rendering engine, based on desktop IE6.

And that was also its chief drawback: a technology core that was first introduced in 2001, although it included technology elements from IE7 and from the then-beta release of IE8.

When users get a Windows Phone 7 device sometime this fall, the IE6 core finally will be laid to rest, replaced with an "evolved version" of IE7, according to Todd Brix, senior director, product management, for Microsoft's mobile communications business. Somewhat oddly, Brix and other Windows Phone and mobile executives always referred to "the Windows Phone 7 browser," or "the browser" or, often, just "it."

Microsoft isn't unique in this: Nokia and Google don't have names for their mobile browsers either.

Brix didn't go into technical details but the evolution of "it" presumably means adopting the core elements of IE7, released in late 2006, and some elements from IE8 which was released almost exactly one year ago at MIX09.

Some of the improvements are obvious in demonstrations this week at MIX10, Microsoft's Web-focused developer conference. These include: fully-enabled, four-point multi-touch, zooming in and out by a pinching finger gesture on the screen, so-called "deep zoom" for extreme, high fidelity close-ups, remarkably clear typography and display of text, and very smooth, fast operation.

"We invested heavily in optimizing the browser for mobile," says Charlie Kindel, partner group program manager for the Windows Phone application platform and developer experience at Microsoft.

But Microsoft at MIX10 hasn't singled out the Windows Phone browser as a key development. And in any case it's overshadowed by the release Tuesday of the "partner preview" of desktop IE9. Among the new or improved features: expanded, more robust support for emerging Web standards such as HTML5 and CSS 3, and dramatically improved performance due to a new Javascript engine.

IE9 will run graphics and text rendering on a separate graphics processing unit (GPU), rather than a CPU, using a dedicated chip to give a big boost to its speed. The Windows Phone 7 visual user interface also exploits a GPU on the phone, part of the hardware specification worked out by Microsoft and its partners. It seems at least possible that the phone's browser also may use that.

Microsoft demonstrated IE9 running H.264 video from YouTube, natively within the browser by means of supporting HTML5, instead of using plugins such as Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. It's not clear yet whether Windows Phone browser will be able to do that: Microsoft has said the initial release will support neither Adobe Flash or Silverlight.

But Microsoft's emphasis on creating a modern, cutting edge user experience in Windows Phone, underlines the technology lag between the desktop and phone browsing experience. Microsoft doesn't see it that way. "It will be not just a very competitive browser but one of the better [mobile] browsing experiences available," Brix says.

Part of the lag has been due to the unsynchronized engineering efforts of various units within Microsoft. This weakness is being corrected in many places and levels inside the company, according to executives. Brix says the Windows Phone and desktop browser engineering groups are working much more closely than in the past and this will continue to improve. Users and developers can expect to see features and innovations emerge on the desktop product and then migrate at a much faster rate than in the past to the mobile browser, he says.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftsmartphoneswindows phone 7

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Cox

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?