Microsoft touts speed, HTML 5 support in IE9

Microsoft commits to HTML 5, stays mum on IE9 release date

Microsoft previewed its Internet Explorer 9 Web browser to MIX10 attendees and promised to drive standards work on HTML 5.

Microsoft wants the world to abandon Internet Explorer 6 and upgrade to IE7 or IE8 for security reasons, but the company says Web and application developers will want to upgrade to the next version of Microsoft's Web browser, IE9, for its optimized performance and HTML 5 support.

Microsoft seeking browser comeback with IE9

Without revealing when the browser will become generally available, IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch told attendees of a keynote address at Microsoft's MIX10 Web developer conference that the company will not only support HTML 5, but also drive efforts to make the Web presentation specification a standard.

"We love HTML 5 so much, we want it to actually work and in IE9, it will. We want the same script and same markup to work across browsers. And at the same time we want to be responsible about standards," Hachamovitch said Tuesday. "We set out to support every standard we saw in real world data in IE9."

By supporting HTML 5, Microsoft could provide optimized rendering speeds and help developers create dynamic Web applications that work equally well across various browsers. The company says it will enable HTML 5 to run better by taking advantage of PC hardware via Windows. Hachamovitch explained that GPU-powered HTML would enable the rendering engine to achieve greater speeds and deliver pages faster. Microsoft demonstrated at MIX10 how "IE9's new script engine internally known as 'Chakra' … compiles JavaScript in the background on a separate core of the CPU, parallel to IE," Microsoft wrote in its IEBlog.  

"The rendering engine was built from the ground up to work on this hardware, written in SVG and JavaScript," Hachamovitch said.

Microsoft also announced it made available for download IE9 Platform Preview for developers, which the company committed to updating every eight weeks.

The keynote at MIX10 shows Microsoft is aggressively working to be considered a browser technology leader among developers again, industry watchers say. Microsoft "was a bit resistant to embracing HTML 5, but in their defense it is not a standard," says Sheri McLeish, an analyst covering information and knowledge management at Forrester Research. But now the vendor is not only embracing it but pushing it through the standards process, she says.

"Microsoft has shown they really want to lead the way with HTML 5 and not follow others with innovation. Their leadership here will help Microsoft deliver IE9 as a truly modern browser and demonstrates how seriously they are taking this effort," McLeish says.

Using HTML 5 in IE9 will make the developer community happy because for many the use of different standards meant writing and designing Web applications and pages multiple times to support various browsers. The audience at MIX10 seemed impressed with the side-by-side comparisons Hachamovitch demonstrated, which was Webcast live.

While HTML 5 is not yet a standard, other browsers such as Google Chrome embrace it, making it seem as though Microsoft is behind the times. That along with appealing features such as tabs in Firefox could have led customers away from IE to other browsers, McLeish says.

"Certainly, Microsoft still needs to work on the products it has in the marketplace now. Getting people off of IE6 continues to be a thorn in Microsoft's side," she says.

According to research from Janco Associates, Microsoft IE continues to lead the pack of browsers despite losing market share in the past 12 months. Microsoft now holds a bit less than 65% of the total browser market, compared to more than 80% in February 2007. Firefox market share remained mostly flat at about 17%. At the same time, market share for Google's browser grew to nearly 6%, while Safari increased to 1.39%.

"This will move Microsoft much higher up in terms of their level of innovation in the browser. The company has a very broad user base today, and this news will be met with much applause from the developer community who would like to see all vendors embrace standards," according to McLeish.

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