This is the question and the final conclusion I came to after studying all the details related to the announcement of Microsoft and Top Sites Celebrate the Beauty of the Web With Internet Explorer 9 Beta Release [Sept 15]. Let’s see the accompanying fact sheet Windows Internet Explorer 9 New Features at a Glance which has the following grouping and the related to my question major statement excerpts about the IE9 Beta (emphasis used within the excerpted text detail is mine):
As an example of how Internet Explorer 9 takes advantage of the power of the whole computer, the rendering of graphics and text has been moved from the central processing unit (CPU) to the graphics card (the graphics processing unit or GPU), using the Direct2D and DirectWrite sets of Windows application programming interfaces (APIs). Hardware-accelerated text, video and graphics mean that your websites perform like applications installed directly on your Windows-based computer.
F12 developer tools
Clean site-centric design makes sites shine and integrates them with Windows 7:
Clean browser user interface Pinned Sites JumpLists Windows Aero Snap for your websites Thumbnail preview controls Icon overlays Notification Bar New tab page One Box Address Bar Top Result
Feel the confidence and trust that you are in control with Internet Explorer 9:
Download Manager with SmartScreen filter integration Add-on Performance Advisor Hang recovery Compatibility View Automatic updates Group Policy support
Write interoperable markup with HTML5 and Internet Explorer 9:
Extensive support for HTML5, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Cascading Style Sheets Level 3 (CSS3), ECMAScript5 and DOM provides a new set of capabilities that will help enable developers to write one set of markup and know that it will work and look the same in all modern browsers. Internet Explorer 9 was designed with support for industry standards built in to help ensure that the same markup works the same across browsers.
• HTML5 support. Internet Explorer 9 builds on the work done to implement HTML5 features in Internet Explorer 8, and adds several compelling features. Support for the video and audio elements enables native, hardware-accelerated video and audio content on a Web page without the need for a plug-in. Developers can now insert a video or audio clip onto their page as easily as they do images. Plus, support for the canvas element enables easy and dynamic graphics rendering, all while taking advantage of hardware acceleration through Windows and the graphics card. In addition, support for the selection APIs enables programmatic selection of text on a page, and HTML parsing improvements help make HTML authoring more versatile.
• DOM Level 2 and Level 3. Internet Explorer 9 adds support for more of the Document Object Model Level 2 (DOM L2) and Level 3 (DOM L3), and improves DOM L2 support over existing implementations. These DOM additions are taken from several DOM specifications, including DOM L2 and L3 Core, DOM L2 Views, DOM Element Traversal, DOM L2 and L3 Events, DOM L2 HTML, DOM L2 Style, DOM L2 Traversal and Range, and WebIDL (interactive data language).
• SVG. As the SVG standard has developed, developers have been requesting native support in Internet Explorer, and it is available in Internet Explorer 9. Support for SVG in Internet Explorer 9 enables powerful, attention-grabbing visuals with incredible detail, all without the need for a separate download or plug-in. Like all the graphics, text and media features in Internet Explorer 9, SVG in Internet Explorer 9 takes advantage of hardware-accelerated graphics.
• CSS3. Building on the work that was done in Internet Explorer 8, which is fully compliant with the Cascading Style Sheets Level 2.1 (CSS2.1) specification, Internet Explorer 9 adds support for many components of CSS3, enabling even more flexibility and functionality for Web designers and developers. Internet Explorer 9 introduces features from several CSS3 modules, including the Backgrounds & Borders Module, Color Module, Fonts Module, Media Queries Module, Namespaces Module, Selectors Module, the Values & Units Module, and support for the Web Open Font Format (WOFF).
With things like that it is clear that Microsoft is aiming at a radically new Windows client platform creation which is based on the latest “rich web” standards capable of taking advantage of the power of the whole computer. In that sense what has debuted now as Internet Explorer 9 Beta is not less than:
- the fist implementation of that new Windows client platform, and also
- the live laboratory of platform development alongside with the development of new “rich web” standards.
The final questions are certainly how efficient is the current implementation and how much the latest “rich web” standards are covered by IE9 Beta?
To answer those two question let’s turn to the technology media leaders on the web having the opportunity to analyze the new release not less than week before it has been released by Microsoft:
Engadget Internet Explorer 9 Beta review [Sept 15] concentrated on completely redesigned fuctionality and performance, not advancements in the standards space (btw a pretty complicated issue):
ZDNet Internet Explorer 9 beta review: Microsoft reinvents the browser [Sept 15] tried to answer questions readers were typically asking: Is it fast enough? Is it compatible enough? Is it cool enough to win back former IE users who have switched to other browsers, first to Firefox and more recently to Google Chrome? And will this shiny new browser be able to rehabilitate the tarnished Internet Explorer brand? From ZDNet’s review there was again answer only to my performance question (emphasis in the quoted text is again mine):
The single biggest performance boost in IE9 comes from its support for hardware acceleration. Because IE9 runs only on Windows Vista SP2 and Windows 7, it can be tuned to offload some rendering tasks to modern graphics hardware, which often has more raw processing power than the rest of the PC. (Microsoft claims that current browsers use only 10% of a PC’s power, which might be a bit of hyperbole.) It’s clear from daily use, though, that hardware acceleration really does make a difference in rendering text, images, and graphics. As a result, Microsoft finds itself in an unaccustomed position, out in front of other browsers, which are furiously trying to play catch-up.
I tested the IE9 beta alongside Firefox 4 beta 5, which was released in September 2010 and is the first Mozilla offering to support hardware acceleration. I also tested it against the most recent beta of Google Chrome 6, which doesn’t use the GPU for rendering. (Google has reportedly placed that feature on its roadmap for Chrome 7.) … The biggest performance differences, not surprisingly, were apparent on Microsoft’s own graphics-oriented tests at its IE Test Drive site. On the FishIE Tank example, which uses the new HTML5 Canvas tag, here’s how the three browsers compared: … IE9’s frame rates stayed high as I kicked up the number of animated fish in the virtual tank. Performance remained smooth and glitch-free even when I moved the window across multiple monitors and docked it to the side of the display using Aero Snap. Firefox 4, by contrast, was able maintain high frame rates for short bursts, but moving the browser frame caused performance to plummet and even froze the display for long periods. Using Firefox, frame rates plummeted dramatically when I selected the most demanding settings (500 and 1000 fish). …
For a more independent performance test, I enabled all three browsers for YouTube’s HTML5 channel and tried playing a handful of high-definition videos at 720p and 1080p resolution. All three browsers performed admirably within a window and at full-screen resolution. IE9 and Chrome 6 were able to maintain full-fidelity playback even when tearing a tab out of the browser pane and dragging it to its own window. Firefox 4, on the other hand, failed this test, stopping the playback and starting the clip over when it landed in a new window.
Based on these two indepedendent reviews (and a lot of others with similar findings) I can conclude that performance-wise Microsoft is on track to create the radically new Windows client platform. From the point of view of upcoming “rich-web” standards, however, I should do my own investigation. That will come in the next post in this blog.