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Early Peek at Internet Explorer 9

For some time now, Internet Explorer 9 has been just over the horizon. Yesterday, it came just close enough for us to get a glimpse at what the new version will be about. At the MIX conference in Las Vegas, IE team leader Dean Hachamovitch has made the announcement that IE9 is officially on the way. There is an announcement on the IE team blog.

The news are varied, but the highlights are:

  • CSS3 – opacity, border-radius, rgba
  • HTML5 – audio + video, H.264 codec
  • New JavaScript engine is noticeably faster over IE8, takes advantage of multi-core processors
  • Uses hardware acceleration for text/graphics rendering
  • Scores 55/100 on Acid3 (IE8 scores 20/100)

The summary seems to indicate that the IE team are working hard on this release, putting extra emphasis on web standards.

Microsoft has a new Test Drive page to show what IE9 is already capable of. There is a downloadable platform preview available. The preview is incomplete – it doesn’t have a Back button, for instance. The preview is not a full browser, and can be installed alongside other IE versions.

There are plans for regular updates of the preview (each 8 weeks), eventually leading to a beta, a release candidate, and ultimately the full release. No timeline has been given, although it has been indicated that there will be multiple preview releases. Given that the browser is essentially at an alpha phase, it likely won’t reach release this year.

There has been a tidbit that IE9 will not support Windows XP (nor will the preview), and will require at least Vista with Service Pack 2. This makes sense, as by the time the browser is released, WinXP will be well on its way out – its market share is already on the decline. This seems to be a technical issue anyway…apparently the hardware acceleration makes use of technology that is currently only available in Windows Vista and 7, not in XP.

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