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Microsoft (news, site) has sneaked out a new preview version of its upcoming Web browser to highlight its vision of the next-gen Internet.

Explore and Expand

To show that Microsoft is being a good Internet citizen and offering compatibility for all, its latest preview version of Internet Explorer 9 shows off some smart features. Not only will it be an all-singing HTML5-compatible browser but Windows will accelerate video and other media to offer a full-on broadband Web experience.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Windows will see the HTML-5 features and accelerate them, this integration provides the jazzy features that make it stand out from a platform-agnostic browser. However, only Windows users with IE9 will see this acceleration, everyone else will just default back to a -- presumably -- slower compatible mode, unless their operating system or browser takes a similar route to acceleration.

Tag Along

Using the HTML 5 canvas, video and audio tags, some smart results can be created. Demos on the IE9 Test Drive site include an asteroid field, fish tank and others, all running smoothly. Try them in another browser and it's like watching paint dry.

Canvas creates a simplified way of defining a space for 2D visuals, so  it will be fun for games and impressive animations, without the need for Flash or other plug-ins. IE9 can turn Web pages into something that looks more like a desktop app with font smoothing and other effects among benefits for general users.

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Fonts will look smoother in IE9, but will users care?
 

Going for Speed

One of the more practical benefits of Internet Explorer 9 is that it will match or beat the speed of the current thoroughbred browsers like Safari and Google Chrome. At last, Microsoft won't be considered the slow-coach of the browsing fraternity.

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Leaving Internet Explorer 8 way, way behind

With Internet Explorer 9 still a long way from completion, and with its rivals being able to see every step it makes thanks to Microsoft's more public development approach, its relevance in the business space is far from clear.

While the sexier enterprises and application builders might take advantage, there seems little reason for those using plain CMS and collaboration tools to get in the least bit excited. Remember, if you want to try IE9 you'll need Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed.