Third IE9 Platform Preview: Let the Hardware Acceleration Wars Begin

By  |  Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Microsoft is continuing with its interesting one-step-at-a-time Internet Explorer 9 strategy: It’s releasing its third “Platform Preview” of the browser today. This isn’t a full-blown browser–it’s IE9’s new rendering engine, with HTML5 capabilities, hardware-accelerated graphics, and other goodies, plus enough of a front end that developers and browser junkies can get a taste of what’s to come. New features in this update include support for HTML5 video and further overall speed tweaks.

As with the previous previews, Microsoft has a test drive site which lets you download the IE9 preview and check out demos you can run in any browser. They’re all cool examples of the richer, more interactive Web that’s still a work in progress–and the ones involving animation, not surprisingly, tend to run radically faster and smoother in IE9 than in other browsers. They certainly did at a Microsoft event I attended this morning, where a bevy of computers ranging from an underpowered little netbook to a six-core desktop machine ran the Platform Preview.

Among the new demos: an Amazon.com concept site that makes browsing for books a little like using the iPad app for the Kindle, and a movie-trailer viewer designed in collaboration with IMDb.

Other browsers lag IE9 by so much in these demos that Microsoft’s ambitious efforts have a Catch 22 effect: If IE is the only browser that can do zippy, ambitious animation of this sort, no Web company is going to support it, since the experience would be so crummy for everyone who uses other browsers.

(Well, okay, one company might: Microsoft. Nobody else, though.)

For this reason, it’s in everybody’s best interest if a new front opens up in the browser wars–one in which all of IE’s competitors duke it out for hardware acceleration supremacy. Until now, most of the energy that browser companies have put into speed improvements has related to souping up JavaScript engines, but we may be reaching a point of diminishing returns: Microsoft’s own SunSpider benchmarks show IE9 beating Firefox and Chrome 4 and within milliseconds of other browsers.

If every browser does great JavaScript, it might be time to divert resources to speeding up other aspects of the Web. Hardware acceleration isn’t the only route to take, it’s certainly a promising one. And Microsoft would still have a decent chance at trumping rivals in this area–it has a head start, and it’s the only major browser company that has the luxury of focusing all its energies on making its software run well on one operating system which it happens to control.

Here’s a Microsoft blog post on the new Platform Preview–with, appropriately, some embedded HTML5 video. The company isn’t saying anything about its timetable for finishing up IE9 other than that it plans to continue to release Platform Previews once every eight weeks or so. But given past IE pre-release cycles and the fact we haven’t seen a real full-blown IE9 beta yet, it may be many months before IE9 is fully baked.

 
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11 Comments For This Post

  1. John Baxter Says:

    The demos are really rather amazing (and, perhaps, tilted a bit, but certainly it isn’t all tilt).

    I think it is time I downloaded this thing (the encouraging words at the end of one of the post make it easier: installs alongside IE8).

    Do I hear the sound of job postings for GPU coding experts going up?

  2. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    > it has a head start

    No, no head start. How can it have a head start? IE9 is not even a beta browser. It’s a technology preview. It’s a product demo. No wonder it demoed the code that was written specifically to demo it better than other browsers.

    Safari has had hardware acceleration for years, although it only came to the Windows version just recently. It’s a key feature on iOS where there is limited CPU. But hardware acceleration is turned off by default in Safari because so little of the Web uses it. You don’t want to waste the user’s time and battery firing it up on every page load when less than 1% of pages will use it. Developers enable it with a line of CSS when they want it, which Microsoft did not do in their demo. There are no standards for this yet, but it is likely the standard will end up defaulting to off like Safari, not on like IE9, which as a technology demo, has no users and no concerns with the practical aspects of everyday Web use such as saving battery life.

    So you were watching Microsoft’s hardware acceleration compete with other browsers with their hardware acceleration turned off. It’s no surprise that it won.

    The theme of IE9 is Microsoft catching up to WebKit, because they want their new mobile platform to be able to run iPhone Web apps. It’s great that they are catching up, and it’s smart for them to spin it like they’re breaking new ground when so much of the Web uses IE6-IE8 and Firefox which do not have these features. But they don’t get bragging rights for being the very last of the big 5 to support HTML5. And a demo is a demo. It’s not real life.

  3. adam gold Says:

    This is why I love blogs. I was reading the news and I was like wow – Microsoft is actually catching up. After reading this comment, I now see the spin. Thank you.

  4. Leslie Says:

    I’m actually rooting for IE. For some reason, I’m loyal to it. But Hamran… has a valid point. These are demos done by IE themselves. Unless we tried the product itself, and see the effects of the speed, then we can judge if it truly is better.
    Still, I’m hoping for the best. Wish they fix it up nicely.

  5. Tech Says:

    Microsoft need to do something. They keep losing ground to Firefox and Chrome.

  6. Jimmy Says:

    Microsoft need to launch new and reach explorer to compete with Chorme and Firefox.

  7. Jul Says:

    Actualy… if you run it in the firefox 4 preview or what ever they have out (don't remember) and enable the hardware acceleration, firefox wins out against ie own demo.

  8. buy cross trainer Says:

    hi
    Is there a setting in XP that allows you to preview your images (jpg, gif, etc) by just looking at the icon?
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  9. arahman32 Says:

    In explorer? Just enable Thumbnail mode, or if the folder is set up a a Pictures folder, Filmstrip mode.

  10. arahman32 Says:

    Try this on the IE9 Platform preview: http://hacks.mozilla.org/2010/07/firefox4-beta2/

    IE9Pre seems to lack the stuff needed to render the stuffs.

  11. jibran Says:

    I think we need to bring more ideas for this purpose. Involvement of young people can be handy in this regard. I am happy to find a good post here. philadelphia slip and fall lawyers

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