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Posted on May 27th, 2010 by Barry Collins

Whisper it, but Microsoft might get Internet Explorer 9 right

IE9 demoI went to a preview of the new version of Internet Explorer in London last night, and for the first time in over a decade in this business, I left an IE briefing convinced that Microsoft had finally got it.

Why? Well, firstly Microsoft didn’t show off a single new browser feature. Not one. No resource-hogging wastes of space such as Web Slices, extra toolbars or other such nonsense that Microsoft has pummelled into previous versions.

It has apparently dawned on Microsoft that the reason people use a browser is to visit websites, not fiddle around with browser toys. “I pay money for the play, not the theatre,” said Ryan Gavin, the head of the Internet Explorer business group when I asked where all the new toys were hiding. “That’s why I’m not sitting here talking about this feature or that feature, because it’s really not that important.”

Instead, all the talk was about the stuff going on under the bonnet, in the browser engine itself. Gavin spoke of the improved JavaScript performance offered by the new Chakra engine. For the first time Microsoft is actually boasting about its JavaScript performance in the widely used SunSpider benchmark, instead of sticking its fingers in its ears, and claiming that JavaScript performance doesn’t really matter.

The company’s also talking with genuine enthusiasm about support for HTML5 and the importance of web standards. I know this is a little bit like Cliff Richard declaring his love for heavy metal, and it takes a little bit of getting used to, but it appears that Microsoft is a reformed character when it comes to web standards – and whether that’s by necessity or genuine desire, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a good thing for the web.

Gavin also demonstrated IE9’s new GPU-accelerated graphics and the performance was astonishing. He showed a bog standard HP netbook with an Nvidia Ion chip running 720p video without breaking a sweat. And not just one 720p video clip, but two running simultaneously. Google Chrome running on the same netbook struggled to handle even one.

Internet Explorer 9’s far from complete, and there’s plenty of time left for Microsoft to cock it up yet. But for the first time in my career I’m genuinely looking forward to an Internet Explorer release. I’m off for a lie down.

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23 Responses to “ Whisper it, but Microsoft might get Internet Explorer 9 right ”

  1. AnonnyMuss Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 9:55 am

    I think it’s just one piece of the puzzle that says to me the company has been reforming internally over the last few years and is making that transition from lazy giant back to an innovative company shipping higher quality products.

  2. Kevin Smith Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Oh I hope so. I am desperately trying to be optimistic about his, but as a web developer for the last 15 years, you learn to be very cynical about M$. IE6-8 has just been pain all the way through. Mainly IE6, which is just a huge weight round any developers neck.

    I will believe in optimism, because if M$ doesn’t change, I believe sometime in the future the company my well regret their decisions.

  3. Pete Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Certainly a step in the right direction, though it’s going to take something special to win back the Firefox and Chrome converts.

  4. specious Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Whilst a step in the right direction, there is further to go. For example, MS loses out to new competitor products because they do not have to build in backwards compatability.
    MS have the opportunity to provide a blazingly fast new browser version of IE9 without any of the historical baggage or compatability issues.
    The user can choose which version to install.

  5. James Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Are you sure you didn’t mean Nvidia Ion chip rather than Tegra or have you just revealed rather more than you were intending?

  6. Barry Collins Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Apologies. I did indeed mean Nvidia Ion. Now corrected.

    (P.S. the Captcha words on this comment are “in” and “whoops”. One for irony corner).

  7. stokegabriel Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    But will it be for Windows XP, which is what most of the world is actually using (and reinstalling)

    angered for

    one day it’s going to come up with something rude

  8. Ian Devlin Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    It’s good to hear something concrete on this as I was suspecting the same but some facts always help.

  9. Paul Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    It would take a lot to draw me back to IE. I think the last version I used with any regularity was 5, and I only stuck with that until Firefox was more stable.

    If IE9 can leave the pack behind in terms of speed, power and useability then maybe… but it’s a lot to ask.

  10. Paul Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    *Firefox = Mozilla I think. Oops, memory lapse. It was the browser with the lizard,not the fox…

  11. Mark Simpson Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I believe IE9 will only be for Vista and Windows 7.

    So forget about talk of backwards compatability…

  12. John Paul Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 5:11 am

    It’s stupid when people write M$ instead of MS… grow up… besides companies are supposed to be about the $$$… if they weren’t, they’d be non-profits.

  13. Roger Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 5:53 am

    I’m ready for IE9. I’m sick of chrome’s lack of features. I’ll switch over as soon as it comes out.

  14. Patrick Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 9:56 am

    And what features (missing from chrome) are you talking about?

    For me browser should be minimalistic with ability to run add-ons, ie. latest Chrome. I hate browsers prepacked with lots of useless features, taking ages to load up.

  15. Benjamin Dean Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I won’t hold my breath. They’ll make life on web designers and web developers hell somehow.

  16. B1ackD0g Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I got 720p running on my SSD netbook in Chrome w/ no problem
    Surely will wait to see IE9, but only out of curiosity
    <3 Chrome: no redundancy, customizeable functionality, low resource usage, performance + stability

  17. Orbijx Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    If IE9 actually brings enough to the table, I’ll have my Firefox replacement.
    Chrome is too limited for what I want, and Firefox swallows half a gig of RAM after a few days, which is agitating.
    If IE9 lacks those issues, I could actually see myself switching back.

    (of humor: captcha is `U.S banyans`. Anyone else remember Banyan VINES?)

  18. Duff n Doback Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    good morning, do u guys think IE9 will run better than Adobe?

  19. MikeFM Says:
    May 28th, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    But will it actually support FULLY standard HTML 4 and 5, CSS 1 and 2, Javascript, and DOM? Good CSS 3 support would be a major plus. It can support whatever weird IE-isms it wants but by default it should support standards fully out of the box.

    Not quite sure what they’re saying about video. That the decoding is handled on a GPU or that for some reason they are decoding it in the browser that is using the GPU?

    Speed is good but standards support is a must. Here’s hoping that IE9 is the first version of Internet Explorer to not suck.

  20. Duff n Doback Says:
    May 29th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I feel The new IE9 will run my world of warcraft for effectively and im very excited. I enjoy things i remember! Good luck to all of you on the up coming game!

  21. dot tilde dot Says:
    May 30th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    hey, the leader of the industry might start to get it right. so when they said “where do you want to go today”, they meant 2010 all the time? wow.


  22. stonee Says:
    June 1st, 2010 at 5:04 am

    As a normal broswer user, the most important feature of IE9 is it will support H.264 (mp4) which is one of HTML5 supporting video format in the future.

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