Microsoft opens kimono on IE9

Early versions of Microsoft’s next incarnation of Internet Explorer 9 are being shown off to developers and hacks and it is starting to look like Redmond is learning from its rivals.

Looking under the bonnet, Internet Exploder 9  focuses on compliance with the forthcoming HTML 5 standards. It also is faster and offloads a lot of its work within the web browser to the graphics processing unit (GPU), or using separate CPU cores for certain elements of web pages.

While it is still the world’s number one browser, IE is largely seen as the Internet’s homeless person on the street. We all know it is there, we have to pass by it every morning, it is just that it smells a little bit of wee and we would rather there was something else there.

Lately its market share has been carved up by rivals such as Mozilla and Google who have been adding more features, support and speed to their browsers.

The new IE supports has CSS3 features such as rounded corners and opacity. Redmond supports SVG even though it is pushing its own Silverlight platform for rich graphics.

Microsoft has been showing off H.264 video running at 720p in the browser, with the support for the video and audio content built-in.

IE uses the new Chakra Javascript engine to compile in the background on a separate CPU core. There is also hardware acceleration into the browser to speed up web page rendering.

Redmond has dubbed all this “GPU-powered-HTML5” and claims that it will greatly improve graphics performance within a browser and improve more normal tasks such as scrolling web pages by handing over processing to the graphics card.

Most of the features in the “Platform Preview” are disabled at the moment but you can have a play here.