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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) Early Preview Demo

Much to everyone’s surprise, Microsoft shared details about Internet Explorer 9 very early on in the browser’s development process. Dean Hachamovitch, general manager, Internet Explorer, explained that the first IE9-related information offered via official channels was simply the Redmond company joining the discussion of browsers. The software giant choose its Professional Developers Conference 2009, in Los Angeles, to showcase a preview of IE9, but no bits were released as the browser is merely just weeks old.

“The topics that we’re going to talk about pretty much choose themselves, when you look at the conversations that happened throughout IE8,” Hachamovitch noted. More specifically, Microsoft touched three topics, in particular, standards support, performance progress, and the introduction of graphics hardware acceleration.

You will be able to watch the first public demonstration of Internet Explorer 9 via the video embedded at the bottom of this article, courtesy of Microsoft. Obviously the company did not single out the content focused only on IE9, so the video covers the entire PDC 2009 Day 2 Keynote, featuring such Microsoft executives as
Steven Sinofsky, president, Windows and Windows Live Division, and Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president, .NET Developer Platform. It will be Sinofsky demoing IE9, as along with the Windows project, the Microsoft president is also responsible for the development of the next iteration of the Internet Explorer browser.

As far as I’m concerned, the entire PDC 2009 Day 2 keynote is well-worth watching, but I do realize that you have to dedicate a consistent portion of your time in doing so, as the video goes on for about two and a half hours. So, for those that just want to skip directly to the IE9 demo, just go ahead and jump to minute 40 in the presentation and take it from there (spoiler alert – IE9 has no GUI as of yet).


“The primary focus for our team is providing rich capabilities, the kind that developers really want and use in an interoperable way,” said John Hrvatin, program manager for the IE team.

Acid3 is one of the tests designed to assess the browser performance when it comes down to standards support. At the time of this article, Internet Explorer is lagging rival browsers in relation to the Acid3 test score, being inferior in the level of modern standards adoption. With the advent of Internet Explorer 8 Microsoft choose to simply ignore Acid3, and focused exclusively on acing the Acid2 test, arguing that it would not provide support for standards that were incomplete at the time such as HTML5 and CSS3.

The IE9 demo indicates that Microsoft has now had a change of heart and that it considers passing the Acid3 test one of the priorities in developing the next version of Internet Explorer. Already, IE9 is faring better than IE8 in the Acid3 test, obtaining a superior score. “Developers need not just a strong platform that’s got great performance and great capabilities, but they also have expectations around how the code will work,” Hachamovitch noted.

But in all fairness, embracing HTML5 and CSS3 is a move that Microsoft is doing largely to close the gap separating IE from Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, while also attempting to tone down the level of criticism from web developers which can’t leverage modern web standards simply because of lack of IE support for them. As far as end users are concerned, the benefits they will be able to enjoy won’t be extremely evident to them. Fact is that the vast majority of users won’t be able to tell which websites use CSS2.1 for styling and formatting and which leverage CSS3. But inherently, advantages will be offered through the simple evolution of the user experience.

“We want to focus on those capabilities that developers are really most interested in, but doing it in an interoperable way, and standards are really one of the ways in which we achieve that. But it’s still people building the standards, and there could be places where parts of the specification aren’t clear, and different browser vendors interpret them in different ways,” Hrvatin added.


“So there’s performance, and we’re going to talk about the progress that we made. Everybody cares about performance, everybody benefits from performance improvements. And performance is a super complex problem. I mean, there are so many subsystems in the browser,” Hachamovitch said.

With Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft lost the race on performance, simply because it failed to play the same game as its rivals. While Mozilla and Google were running to benchmarks such as the SunSpider test, the Redmond company attempted to convince the world that benchmarking results are in no way representative of actual browser performance. Instead, the software giant argued that its approach, to target IE8 performance to real world scenarios, and to increase IE8 speed in situations most common for its end users, had delivered superior results to Firefox and Chrome. Needless to say the world failed to agree with Microsoft.

Consequently, the Redmond company will, with IE9, play the same game as competitors, namely pour additional horsepower into the next version of IE’s script engine, and ensure that script performance for IE9 is at least on par with rivals, if not even better. Nothing short of an excellent move from Microsoft, the IE9 performance boost needs to be not only consistent, but also continually updatable. The Redmond company has to understand that performance, much like standards support and interoperability is an ongoing effort, but one that requires fast pace upgrades.

“We’ve been working on performance optimizations around the JavaScript engine for the
next version of Internet Explorer. One of the things we’ve heard pretty clearly from customers is we need to get better there, so done a bunch of work in the core JScript engine,” revealed John Montgomery, general product manager.

A change is needed either in the frequency at which Microsoft delivers major versions of Internet Explorer, or in the introduction of minor updates, after the model v9.1, v9.2, v9.3, and so on and so forth, in order to keep Internet Explorer 9 at least on par with rivals in terms of the performance level. In short, IE needs to evolve faster, and appear less out of breath when playing catch up with the likes of Firefox and Chrome.

Hardware Acceleration

“The power of modern hardware with Windows and all the energy that goes into the ecosystem to make PCs great, and how all of that can make the PC better. All the improvement around modern PCs and Windows shows up in the browser available for web developers. Developers who write the web can get all the goodness of DirectX [DirectX 11], all the goodness of the GPU, and all this amazing acceleration using the patterns that they already have and that they already use,” Hachamovitch said.

Hardware Acceleration is about Windows,
DirectX 11 Windows APIs and the GPU (the computer’s graphics processing unit), and IE9 will take advantage of all these resources in concert. Microsoft’s PDC 2009 IE9 demonstration involves technologies such as Direct2D and DirectWrite for text rendering, and as the video shows, the improvements are amazing. Essentially, in the evolution from Internet Explorer 8 to IE9, Microsoft has swapped the rendering engine from leveraging GDI to DirectX.

The graphics cards on computers running IE9 will no longer simply sit unused, as the browser will turn to the GPU for webpage rendering. By embracing the GPU, IE9’s performance will get a boost, but as the demo unveiled, the fidelity of the rendering is unmatched. Ultimately, IE9 will deliver a superior users experience to IE8, and to all current competitive browsers available on the market. However, in all fairness,
Mozilla has also been flirting with hardware acceleration for a future version of Firefox that is planned for availability following the release of v3.6.

Watch Video Here:-

Internet Explorer 9 Video

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