Internet Explorer 9 is accelerating toward the turbo-charged future of the web, an evolved Internet, with new content, fresh experiences, and Cloud-based applications that will feel as if they would be running not as services, but locally on the PC instead. With its next version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft is upping the ante by tailoring the browser to modern machines, and leveraging multi-core CPU and GPU computation in concert. Through the various testing releases, but especially in IE9 Platform Preview 3 Build 18.104.22.168.74.6000, the Redmond company delivered a powerful browser, capable of kicking up to the next level the users’ experiences related to video, text and graphics rendering on the web.
At the core of IE9’s hardware acceleration capabilities is the DirectX family of Windows application programming interfaces (APIs). Namely, DirectX 11, included by default in Windows 7, also backported to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2), but unfortunately, not to Windows XP). Video, text and graphics rendering is no longer straining the processor, as it is performed by the graphics card, taking advantage of DirectX 11’s Direct2D and DirectWrite. Hardware acceleration means that IE9 will be able to deal with graphically intensive websites with unmatched performance.
The best way to get an idea of what IE9 is capable of is to download the latest Platform Preview, head over to the IE Test Center, and put the browser through all the tests made available by Microsoft. Better yet, early adopters should make sure to also download rival browsers, put them through the same range of tests, and compare the results. Internet Explorer 9 is guaranteed to make quite an impression.
Just as it was the case with Windows 7, the software giant is working closely with partners to ensure that IE9 will deliver on all promises. Following the launch of IE9 Platform Preview 3, AMD, NVIDIA, ASUS and Dell applauded the new hardware acceleration capabilities, and for good reason.
Pedal to the metal
“AMD has been the unique voice promoting the balanced approach of using the complete PC. And through development collaboration with Microsoft and the Windows 7 standard public APIs (Direct2D and DirectWrite), Internet Explorer 9 takes advantage of that perfect balance and delivers a compelling experience,” revealed David Hoff, Director of Advanced Technology Initiatives at AMD.
“Today’s web browsers need performance and capabilities that will meet the needs of everyone, from digital natives and gamers to the mobile workforce. (…) Now Microsoft is once again raising the bar for visual computing with Internet Explorer 9,” he added. “We see this approach as a winning combination of software and hardware working together to provide a richer, more immersive online experience. This is an ideal complement to my work at AMD providing PC users the best possible visual computing experience.”
Lionel Menchaca, Dell’s chief blogger expects IE9 to be a game changing element for Cloud-based experiences. Because IE9 is offloading computing cycles from the CPU to the graphics processor (GPU), the browser is perfect for handling graphic-intensive tasks, performing with enhanced efficiency on visually rich websites that feature a range of content.
“That efficiency translates into more overall speed and less battery life required (which is kinda important when you’re talking about laptops, netbooks and other mobile devices). Microsoft’s approach to new web technologies like HTML5 is new. They use Direct2D and DirectDraw, two components of DirectX that are supported in Windows 7 and Vista,” Menchaca explained.
In the end, with hardware acceleration, Internet Explorer 9 will deliver not only better speed, but also improved user experiences. Menchaca sees IE9 as just the beginning, with hardware acceleration on track to becoming ubiquitous across not only Windows PCs, but also additional devices.
“Here’s what I’d love to see happen: bring hardware acceleration to web browsing for desktops, laptops and netbooks. Seems like Microsoft is well on its way delivering that. Then bring it to smaller mobile devices. The end result is something that’s good for hardware geeks and casual technology users alike. Empowering a range of devices that can do more on the web, using standards-based web technology all more efficiently than before? Sign me up,” Menchaca said.
ASUS is one of the companies working with Microsoft to ensure that its computers will be able to handle IE9 properly, and deliver the best experience to customers. Gary Key, a Technical Marketing Manager for ASUS, notes that ASUS was among the first OEMs to embrace Intel Atom dual-core processors, NVIDIA ION, NVIDIA 3D Vision, and DX11.
“It’s this type of power that enables IE9 to provide an extremely responsive and interactive user experience on the Web. ASUS’ continued commitment to provide excellent CPU and GPU performance in its mobile products along with Microsoft’s innovative use of hardware acceleration in IE9 will help to create unlimited possibilities for new Web applications that are both graphically and functionally rich,” he revealed.
One of the best aspects of IE9 is that it will come with modest hardware requirements, just as Windows 7. This means that even users buying netbooks, form factors initially designed only for basic Internet browsing, will be able to enjoy hardware acceleration.
David Ragones, Director of Product Marketing, ION/GeForce, NVIDIA made it clear that IE9 will usher in a new era for the Web, in which basic and limited user experiences will no longer be the standard. Through the combination of CPU and GPU, Internet Explorer 9 will support visually rich content and powerful web apps delivering a level of performance similar to desktop apps.
“With the upcoming release of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft has embraced the GPU and turbo-charged the future of the web. No longer will there be artificial roadblocks to compelling new web experiences. Imagine your favorite site now re-engineered with the GPU in mind. Desktop, Notebooks, and Netbook PCs with NVIDIA GPUs will navigate your social network visually; deliver smooth in-browser playback of multiple HD videos at once; smoothly pan, swoop, and zoom on photos and diagrams – and do it all without leaving the browser, using a plug-in, or having to launch another application,” Ragones said.
2 million downloads already
Despite having been offered only as developer previews, IE9 was downloaded over 2 million times already, since Platform Preview 1 was introduced in March 2010. Platform Preview 3 is currently up for grabs, delivering a range of enhancements beyond hardware acceleration, that testers can try out. And if you ask me, the best thing to keep in mind while testing IE9 is that this browser has very little in common with previous versions of Internet Explorer.