After a return to some sort of form with IE8, can Microsoft (news, site) transform its browser for the lean and lite generation?

The Next, Next Generation

After speeding up the Vista core for Windows 7, Microsoft now turns to the Internet Explorer browser as its next product in need of a boost.

While Internet Explorer 8 was an improvement on its predecessors, it was still slow and weighty compared to the new generation of nimble, rocket ship browsers like Chrome and recent versions of Firefox.

In a recent presentation, Microsoft's new hero -- the guy who seems to walk the walk while talking the talk -- Steve Sinofsky, introduced an early (as in, been in development for less than a month) version of IE9 at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference.

The Need For Speed

He mentioned that implementation of HTML5 and improved JavaScript performance will be the twin spurs behind development. Although with HTML5 still in draft, speed may be what we see more of in this iteration.

A further boost in performance will offered by employing the PC's graphics processing unit (GPU), as discussed in this Silverlight video (the interesting stuff happens about four minutes in).

The acceleration involves DirectX calls which coders will be able to access through CSS, DHMTL and Javascript. So fonts are smoother, maps display faster and effects can be smoothly implemented.

 

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 Will 3D acceleration make the browser faster, or just create more widely incompatible sites?

There is an interesting discussion on the IE Blog where the development team looks at the different demands placed on the browser and try to figure out where future improvements can be made. There are also some examples of the improvement in visual fidelity that IE9 will offer.

Working with Standards

Of course, the big debate around any browser is its ability to handle Web standards and Microsoft promises to make improvements in this regard. The current version of IE9 scores a 32 on the Acid3 test but is also looking at other measures of compatibility for CSS 3 and HTML 5.

acid3_ie9.jpg

IE9 has a long way to go in the compatibility stakes

Things will only get better as the product evolves towards a release version, but you can bet on Microsoft to do at least one or two things that will annoy some part of the design or user base. There is no set launch date or feature list for Internet Explorer 9.