Microsoft Details Bold Aspirations for IE9

By Larry Barrett

LAS VEGAS -- A year removed from the debut of Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft released a platform preview of IE9 during the second day of its annual MIX10 developers conference, showcasing a version it promises will be consistent, powerful and long on HTML5 capabilities.

"We saw how HTML5 enabled a whole new class of applications," Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Microsoft's IE group, told attendees here Tuesday. "We quickly realized to do it right, which is our intent, our focus was more around designing what HTML5 apps will need so they will feel more like real apps than Web pages."

To make it happen, Microsoft is relying on high-performance graphics chips and other PC hardware to accelerate the delivery of graphics, video and text so developers can begin building the most powerful and rich applications possible in HTML5.

"Developers, raise your expectations," Hachamovitch said.

Of late, developers could have said the same thing to Microsoft's army of software engineers.

While other browsers such as Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome have quickly embraced HTML5 and SVG, the Scalable Vector Graphics standard, Microsoft IE has fallen behind in HTML5 development and not coincidentally lost share to its largest browser competitors.

But those days are over, according to Hachamovitch, as he all but begged the assembled audience of developers to stop writing code for the ancient and security-deficient IE6 browser and start writing apps for IE8, promising that all apps will be supported by IE9 once it's released sometime in 2011.

Hachamovitch joked that there was an IE6 "funeral" held recently in Denver but "the IE9 team couldn't make it. We sent flowers."

"We've built Internet Explorer 9 from the ground up on top of the Windows 7 platform," Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, said during a demo. "We're all in."

IE9 will have support for CSS3, the style sheet language used to describe presentation semantics of documents written in markup language, and for SVG 1.1 imagery inline.

Hachamovitch said Microsoft will update the browser code every eight weeks until it releases a beta version at some undetermined date down the road. It will include new Web standards such as plug-in-free video and a new JavaScript engine called Chakra that will compile data in the background to improve performance without changing pages or code.

Microsoft showed off the early iteration of IE9, running a series of graphics-rich demos that showed its new browser was faster than some of its competitors.

Speaking of competitors, Mike Shaver, vice president of engineering at Mozilla, was gracious enough to tweet some encouraging words during the keynote address, saying "IE9 looks great, very glad to see it."

Microsoft also announced plans to improve the development of new features and enhancements in the open source jQuery JavaScript Library, and will share the releases of new software development kits for the Open Data Protocol (OData) to help make life a little easier for developers looking to access data from the cloud to build cross-platform Web apps.

The company also said it will promote and distribute versions of the jQuery JavaScript Library in its Visual Studio 2010 and ASP.NET MVC 2 offerings.

Attendees appeared to be particularly pleased when Microsoft announced the second Community Technology Preview (CTP) of "Dallas," an information marketplace powered by the Windows Azure platform that gives developers access to third-party data sets that can be consumed by Web and mobile applications.

With more than 30 data sets now available from content providers such as Weather Central and Zillow.com, developers have an opportunity to sell their applications through "Dallas."

Also, Microsoft reiterated that it plans to release Visual Studio 2010 and the updated .NET framework sometime next month.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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