Microsoft Windows chief decries standards grandstanding

Microsoft Windows chief Steven Sinofsky takes shot at Mozilla, talks up IE 9

Microsoft is in the early stages of IE9 development but they are already focusing on standards and the performance gains they can realize by taking advantage of modern PC hardware.

Los Angeles – Microsoft will be compliant with industry standards in Internet Explorer 9 such as HTML 5, but Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, decried the habit of vendors getting ahead of the process.

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"We are not trying to market things that are not there for developers to use yet," said Sinofsky during an interview with Network World. "Whether they are in IE or not, saying you are standards based but then saying you are the most HTML 5 compliant browser does not make sense because the standard is not [complete] yet. There is a little bit of a time warp going on."

Sinofsky was making reference to Mozilla who is pushing heavily on HTML 5 in development of its Firefox browser. The browser issue is a hot topic given that Microsoft has lost over the past year about 7% market share, according the thecounter.com, as users gave up on IE 7 to go to alternatives such as Firefox and Safari. Microsoft is hoping IE 8 can attack that trend and have IE 9 squash it.

Sinofsky characterized his stand as responsible engineering. "We understand people's desire for interoperability so HTML 5 is a thing that people talk about a lot but it is not even at the standard recommendation phase yet." Microsoft supports some aspects of the standard that are complete now such as storage and cross-site navigation.

Microsoft, however, is working toward full support on the HTML 5 specification, which was one of three advancements Sinofsky highlighted when he talked about IE 9 during his Wednesday keynote address.

The other two were improvements on the Acid 3 test of standards compatibility, where Microsoft now scores 32 out of 100 with its latest prototype browser, and GPU-based rendering, which takes advantage of hardware for tasks such as animation or rendering type.

"These three things will be in IE 9," he said. But he would not provide any delivery dates for the software.

In terms of Acid 3, a test from the Web Standards Project that checks how well a browser follows certain parts of Web standards, Sinofsky admitted there is work to do and said that Microsoft is doing it.

"We are behind in it and I want to make sure people understand that we get it, we are working and we are showing progress," he said. Sinofsky also acknowledged that the SunSpider Java benchmark shows IE performance lacking against the competition and said that disparity would be corrected. Microsoft released a set of videos it produced that highlight its standards work.

Sinofsky said the third important area for IE 9 will be performance, especially as it relates to taking advantage of modern PC hardware.

During his Wednesday demo, Sinofsky showed text rendering being done by a graphics chip using DirectX’s Direct2D, and he showed a map animation using GPU-based rendering that improved the frame per second rate from 14 to 60.

"The device [the browser] is on matters; hardware acceleration is just one example" he said. "The readability you gain by using a hardware chip rendering text is very significant."

Sinofsky said corporate end-users reading lots of text each day from a browser can reduce eye strain and improve their performance just by having improved text rendering.

In terms of animation in a browser, Sinofsky said it can't be done effectively without hardware. "The difference between a PC game today and a PC game from 10 years ago is that the game 10 years ago looked like an animated cartoon, it is like comparing a Pixar film to a Disney film. That is all hardware; and having all that show through the browser while still working on standards is incredibly important."

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