By Harry McCracken
What’s Microsoft planning for Internet Explorer 9? There’s a lot the company isn’t ready to talk about, including what sort of new features it’ll have and when it’ll be available. But at the MIX10 conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft is telling Web developers about the new capabilities that IE9 will provide, and it’s giving them the ability to get some hands-on experience with them for the first time. (Along with other tech journalists, I was prebriefed late last week.)
It’s doing so via a piece of software it calls the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview, along with a Test Drive site (which doesn’t seem to be live yet) with sample content for viewing in the Platform Preview or any browser. This isn’t a full-fledged IE9 beta: It’s a stripped-down window, and all it can do is render Web content.
Essentially, it’s a heads-up for Web developers about the new technologies and standards which IE9 will bring, so their sites can be ready once the browser hits the market.
But there’s a lot that’s new under IE9’s surface. Such as:
Hardware acceleration. IE9 uses Microsoft’s DirectX technologies–best known for their use in games–to leverage the power of today’s graphics processors to speed up the rendering of Web pages, without requiring Web developers to do anything in particular. The feature lets the browser display high-quality text and graphics faster: The Platform Preview includes a striking demo in which oversized icons for the major browsers fly around the screen in formation at high speed. In Safari and Chrome, the icons drag along at a crawl; they’re a bit snappier in Firefox and Opera, but they don’t look as good or zip as smoothly as in IE9.
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[This post is excerpted with Harry’s permission from his Technologizer blog.]