Will Internet Explorer 9 Win The Browser Wars

Microsoft hasn’t shown very much of its next Web browser, and hasn’t even announced a release date. The most you can do is preview some of Internet Explorer 9’s capabilities, which says nothing about the browser’s user interface. Still, what Microsoft has shown so far is probably enough to get some people excited. With improved speed and support for HTML 5, Internet Explorer 9 could be Microsoft’s next step towards winning the browser war.

Previous versions of Internet Explorer have lagged behind other browsers on speed and support for new technology — the problems that Microsoft is working on with IE9. While Microsoft used to insist that Javascript speed wasn’t that important, it’s now using benchmarks to show that it can go toe-to-toe with any browser. Support for HTML 5, which is still not a standard, hardware-accelerated 3D graphics show that Microsoft is thinking ahead on performance.

What’s New in Internet Explorer 9?
Microsoft is touting IE’s speedy performance and its much-improved support for Web standards. The browser’s strongest attribute is likely its adherence to HTML5, the major revision of Web’s core markup language that’s still under development. HTML5 will allow IE9 (and other browsers) to move beyond resource hogging browser plug-ins, like Adobe Flash, to display multimedia content online. Toss in better CSS 3 support (to help Web designers created the right look for their sites) and an improved JavaScript engine (to the crank up the speed of Web apps), and IE9 promises to be a more nimble browser than the slow, lumbering Internet Explorer versions of the past.

Will the Preview Run on My PC?
Yes, but only if you’re running Windows 7 or Vista. On Vista, however, you’ll need to install Internet Explorer 8 (if you haven’t already) and the Platform Update for Windows Vista, an Operating System upgrade that allows Vista to use some Windows 7 technologies. And while the IE9 Platform Preview comes only in a 32-bit x86 version, it does run on 64-bit Windows 7 and Vista PCs too.

Unfortunately, if you’re still running any flavor of Windows XP, you’re out of luck. The GPU-powered graphics of the IE9 Platform Preview rely on display driver enhancements first introduced in Windows Vista. Perhaps another reason to abandon Windows XP and upgrade to Windows 7 sooner than later.

Can I use the preview in place of my regular browser?
No. The Platform Preview isn’t a fully-functional browser. There’s no back button, for instance, or an address bar. It opens links in your default browser, not the Preview app. In addition, some of the features may or may not appear in the shipping version of IE9, depending on feedback from Platform Preview testers.

Are there any cool platform preview features?
Microsoft has released a few technology demos that spotlight IE9’s improved handling of JavaScript, its HTML5 capabilities, and its support for hardware-accelerated graphics. These are mostly simple demonstrations, such as flying images, map zooming, an HTML5 t-shirt designer, and GPU-powered falling balls. You’ll need to download and install the Platform Preview to check them out.

When will IE9 be ready?
That’s the million dollar question. Microsoft plans to release a beta version of IE9 after feedback from Platform Preview users indicates the technologies are ready for everyday Web browsing. I expect the beta version to be released during the summer or early fall. Then we might see a release candidate nearer the end of this year. That gives all of us Windows XP users plenty of time to upgrade to Windows 7.

Install and preview some of IE9 features here:

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