Microsoft Touts Faster Speed With IE9 Preview

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Microsoft executives announced design improvements and anticipated performance enhancements slated for the impending IE 9 launch at the Microsoft's MIX developer conference, held in Las Vegas, Tuesday, despite the fact that the company is still months away from an official consumer launch of its new Web browser.

What separates this impending release from others is that Microsoft launched IE 9 Platform Preview for developers, an application that allows Web developers to take the new browser for a "test drive" by enabling them to access and provide feedback on the progress the company is making on its development.

'The Platform Preview, and the feedback loop it is part of, makes a major change from previous IE releases, " said Dean Hachamovich, Microsoft IE general manager, in a statement. "We want the developer community to have an earlier hands-on experience with the progress we're making on the IE platform."

Microsoft said that its newly launched Platform Preview provides developers a better forum on which to share and discuss information and feedback as IE 9 undergoes various stages of its development. Additionally, the company pledged to update the browser every eight weeks. "The Platform Preview, and the feedback loop it is part of, marks a major change from previous IE releases," Hachamovitch said. "Combined with our engagement with our standards bodies and the development of industry standard test suits, this open community discussion and earlier and more frequent builds reflect our commitment to the Web."

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The upcoming browser also contains a new JavaScript engine, called "Chakra," designed to accelerate the speed and improve performance of IE 9 with a design enhancement that contains a separate background thread for compiling JavaScript while Windows runs in parallel on another core of the CPU. Altogether, the separate JavaScript thread enables users to keep an accelerated Web interaction pace while IE continues to generate faster code.

"Users simply wait less and interact more, like a native program. This design enables better performance for the Web development patterns that occur on many real world sites," Hachamovitch said.

The desired result will be a speed benchmark that Microsoft hails as "approaching the duration of an eye-blink."

Microsoft also lauds IE 9 as the "first browser to provide hardware-accelerated SVG support" -- enabling it to take advantage of available specialized hardware designed to speed up HTML and graphics performance on Web pages. Microsoft engineers hope that the enhancements -- particularly speed -- will put IE on par with some of its biggest competitors, while allowing the browser to regain marketshare lost to Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and others. A Webkit SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark chart shows that benchmark speed for the new IE9 is slightly better than Firefox 3.6, but falls behind the performance of Safari 4.0, Chrome 4.0 and 5.0.3 and Opera 10.5.

"As we continue to make IE9's script engine faster for real world sites, IE will continue to become faster at this particular benchmark as well," Hachamovitch said.