The steady decline of users detected by Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s web browser, has sparked a surprising reaction within the walls of the Redmond company. In fact, Microsoft is about to release the latest version of the popular browser, Explorer 9. At the beginning it will simply be a trial version, named “Internet Explorer Platform Preview”, which is free to download from a “test drive” page on the Microsoft website. The company will release further “platform previews” every eight weeks before entering the Beta testing phase of the program, which will anticipate the final release of the product. Even the Beta versions will likely be public. Anyway, in spite of all the bugs that characterize the current version, which is nothing more than an Alpha release, Microsoft seems to have a precise strategy in mind: unveiling Explorer 9 and demonstrating that the “browser” battle is not lost and that Redmond means to fight it with all its weapons, from the adoption of new web languages standards, to kinds of radical innovation.
The program is working, but still shows some imperfections and gaps, especially for what concerns the user interface and the available functionalities. The purposes of such a preview of this new platform, which will enter the browsers arena ahead of schedule, are not to underline the refinement of details or graphic embellishments: Microsoft means to care about the substance and make clear that this new version of Internet Explorer will challenge its opponents in terms of surfing speed and support of HTML5, CSS3 and all the latest standard web languages generations, even those features that allow the management of complex multimedia content. Explorer 9 will not dismiss the Adobe Flash support, a detail which may result to be vital around Christmas, coincidently with the invasion of Windows-based, anti-iPad tablets.
Having embraced new web standards will certainly make IE9 much more popular among developers and much more transversal among users. Among the new features, we also have to mention the full support of the most recent PC hardware, mainly the new technology developed by nVidia and applied to the Ion video card family. Basically, IE9 will fully support the 3D and HD elaboration competency of this new graphic generation in order to increase and improve the graphical acceleration during the surfing. On the other hand, these new features, as evidenced by the first operational tests, will definitely affect the battery life, but it is undoubtedly too early to provide a definitive idea concerning the price/consumption relationship.
Explorer 9 will feature a new java-script engine, named “Chakra”, which is one of the key-points of the whole renewal operation. Chakra will care about the java-script code by means of a smart use of the modern dual-core processors’ possibilities and the result, in Microsoft’s plans, is to achieve a better speed and stability of the browser.
What will happen on the opposite coast, then? Mozilla, with Firefox and Google, with Chrome, which have been eroding Explorer’s market quote for a long time, thanks to their own peculiarities, lightness, portability and customization possibilities. These things will be possible even for Explorer, even if in a less immediate way. Besides, Microsoft suffers the ball and chain represented by Explorer 6, still a very common browser, in spite of its considerable age, available on many Windows XP-based machines, along with Firefox and Chrome, instead of Explorer 7 or 8. Anyway, the much more airy structure of IE9 may convince Mozilla and Google users to give the browser a new chance. Besides, it is the basic web browser, included in the Windows installation package, therefore everyone, at least once, was forced to use it! Time will provide a proper answer, along with the results of these new IE9 features.
So far, these innovations definitely provide very encouraging results on benchmarks such as SunSpider by Webkit. Anyway, to have a precise idea concerning the real possibilities of Explorer 9, it is enough to install the preview version and have a go. Perhaps we will find out that, after years of slowdown, Explorer is still on the track and is willing to stay, hopefully in the first place.