First Glimpse: Microsoft IE9

Microsoft is readying IE9, and Pocket-lint was invited along for a sneak preview of it in action. The software giant will hope that the next version of its browser will be able to regain some of the trust lost by the problems that have blighted previous instalments. 

Let's not beat about the bush. Internet Explorer is only really the browser that people use if they have to, because it's installed on a work PC for example, or because they don't know any better - think your Mum, or your Auntie who bought herself a laptop for looking up ailments on the web. 

So what can Microsoft do to turn this situation around? After all, it's still the market leading browser by some distance, so surely it should be offering a better experience. Well, that's exactly what the plan is.

Microsoft's Silverlight and Expression product manager Mark Quirk told us: “IE9 has to be fantastic. It has to be native and it has to have a performance that rocks".

So, is Microsoft going to succeed? Are they about to unleash a browser that fulfils Quirk's aims?  

If the demo is anything to go by, then it just might. Because IE9 looks quick. We're talking Chrome bashing quick. And it also looks smooth, and it also looks, well, it just looks good. 

The key to the quickness is the integration of HTML5 and Canvas standards, complete with scalable vector graphics (SVG) and the compiling of JavaScript. IE9 also makes use of DirectWrite, Direct2D technology.

The speed and fluidness also has a hell of a lot to do with the fact that IE9, via HTML5 coding, is able to offset a lot of the graphical demands to your machine's graphics card. Which makes sense, why should CPUs be handling the demanding displays of today's web when GPUs are much better equipped? 

Quirk demoed some web page rendering to us via his modest IdeaPad laptop with an Nvidia Quadro FX570M graphics chip, comparing simple web animation and text zooming and against Firefox, Chrome and Safari, IE9 was noticeably slicker. 

We were also shown a native IE9 Flickr app that behaved with a smoothness that was comparable to a desktop photo package and we were also given a tiny glance of a cool IMDB app complete with multiple, scrollable movie trailers. There was also an Amazon app that performed as well as any plug-in powered app we've seen of the same ilk.

We asked Quirk whether this meant the end for Flash and he indicated that Adobe now had its work cut out in order to keep up with the new standards. He said: "Whereas the bar used to be relatively low, it has now been raised as a result of HTML5.

"There's still some things that plug-ins can do very well, but they will have to meet the bar that has now been set much higher".

Now, we're not foolish enough to suggest that IE9 can definitely save the platform's derived image, or that it will perform better than Firefox or Chrome in the real-world (this demo was carried out under Microsoft's own conditions, don't forget), but what we are sure of is that Microsoft is aware that it is now operating within a tough market and that it is aware that significant improvements have to be made. 

"It is now a very, very competitive market", Quirk said. "Not only with Firefox and Chrome, but with Opera as well".

IE9 looks like it is heading along the right lines though, although only time will tell if the public is ready to forgive and forget. 

You can try out the IE9 preview platforms yourself right here. At present there is no official release date for IE9, although we think you're unlikely to see a full release this year.

Also, check out the video of the third preview platform below: