IE9 preview brings new features, impressive performance

IE 9 Platform Preview 3 gives developers reason for excitement with performance improvements and support for HTML5 Canvas

Microsoft is progressing to the next phase of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) development today with the launch of Platform Preview 3 (PP3) of the next generation Web browser. Developers can download the latest preview to get a sneak peek at what's in store with IE9 and what new functionality Microsoft is incorporating.

IE8 is the reigning king among Web browsers--it leads in market share and in market share growth rate--but, IE9 is generating considerable interest. The IE9 Test Drive site has had more than 16 million visitors, and Microsoft reports that the IE9 Platform Preview has been downloaded over two million times.

With the latest release of the IE9 preview, the Microsoft developers have added support for HTML5 Canvas, and HTML5 audio and video tags. The new HTML5 functionality enables IE9 to deliver interactive content and online video on compatible browsers--similar to what you might expect from Adobe Flash, but without the need for any third-party application or browser plugins.

I spoke with Rob Mauceri, principal group program manager for Internet Explorer at Microsoft, and he walked me through the improvements and capabilities of IE9. Microsoft also put together a short video you can watch, demonstrating some of the capabilities of the IE9 PP3. The video shows some joint development effort with IMDB, and with Amazon illustrating how seamlessly IE9 can scroll through the available options and play video clips natively within the browser.

Aside from fun bells and whistles, this latest release in the IE9 development process shows off some speed and performance improvements as well. According to the SunSpider benchmark test, IE9 PP3 comes in at 347 milliseconds overall--outperforming both Chrome 4 and Firefox.

IE9 also includes support for CSS3 Font Face and Web Open Font Format (WOFF)--rendering a wider range of fonts with better clarity. The IE9 demo video shows a page in IE9, and a similar page rendered in the Google Chrome Web browser in which the fonts are all jacked and misaligned. The Acid3 score for IE9 has gone from a 68 with PP2 to an 83 with PP3.

IE9 combines the Chakra JavaScript engine, with support for multicore CPUs, dedicated GPUs, and hardware video acceleration to deliver exceptional performance. Microsoft is able to deliver flawlessly smooth animation at very high frame rates with IE9. Throughout the demo video, Microsoft does side by side comparisons demonstrating how IE9 looks and performs compared with competing browsers, and the results appear to be compellingly in Microsoft's favor.

I asked about an ETA for a public beta of IE9. Mauceri was predictably elusive--essentially saying that Microsoft is working as fast as it can, but is also focused on ensuring a quality product and is not prepared to announce availability dates which might force developers to march to the beat of artificial deadlines that could compromise quality or performance.

The IE9 Platform Preview 3 is available for download as of 2pm Pacific time today. Visit the IE9 Test Drive site for more information and to download PP3.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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