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6/28/2010
10:48 AM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
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Microsoft's Slow Path To IE 9

The current round of the browser wars has been marked by near constant upgrades and innovations (typified by Google's five updates of Chrome in less than two years). All of which makes Microsoft's slow progress to IE 9 somewhat surprising.

The current round of the browser wars has been marked by near constant upgrades and innovations (typified by Google's five updates of Chrome in less than two years). All of which makes Microsoft's slow progress to IE 9 somewhat surprising.Of course, slow progress is in the eye of the beholder. Internet Explorer 8 was released in March of 2009 and we recently saw a third platform preview release of the browser. A public beta is expected in coming months with final release after that. Compared to the times between IE 6, IE 7 and IE 8, Microsoft is on a blistering pace to release IE 9.

But, in comparison, since March 2009 Google has released four new versions of Chrome. By the time IE 9 officially comes out, we might already be at Chrome 8.

Which means that Microsoft has to be very careful that their browser isn't already behind the technology curve when it comes out.

During the last few days I've been trying out the new platform preview release of IE 9 and it does have some promising elements to it.

The support for features of the forthcoming HTML 5 standard is looking pretty good in the Microsoft browser. And it has improved in standards support in several areas, including much better support for CSS3.

Microsoft has also focused on improving the performance of IE and the platform preview of IE 9 does well on a number of speed tests, especially those focused on JavaScript performance.

But in some tests the improvements aren't as impressive. In tests using Futuremark's Peacekeeper benchmark, the IE 9 preview, while nearly three times faster than IE 8, is still behind all of its current competitors.

And while it has improved over IE 8 in the Acid3 web standards test, it still scores below all of its competitor there as well.

Of course, this is just a platform preview and is still early in its development. This release is basically just a browser framework, lacking even basic browser features such as an address bar.

Right now this platform preview of IE 9 is intended mainly for developers. Regular users should probably wait for the first public beta before deciding to give IE 9 a test drive.

But if you are a developer, or just want to see what the future of IE might look like, you can download the platform preview of IE 9 at ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/

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