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Microsoft Releases IE 10 Platform Preview

Microsoft today announced the first platform preview of Internet Explorer 10 today at its MIX 11 Web developer event, ongoing this week.

Platform previews illustrate Web technologies that Microsoft considers viable, as illustrated at its test site, where those interested can now download the IE 10 platform preview. Microsoft relegates Web technologies that aren't considered ready for prime time to its HTML5 Labs site. Microsoft started this practice of releasing platform previews during the course of developing Internet Explorer 9, a year-long effort that resulted in final product status on March 14.

Microsoft's claim to fame with IE 9 is that it taps the still developing HTML 5 spec and can run graphics and video natively in the browser using HTML 5 code, without needing add-ons such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. Supposedly, by being standards based, developers can write code once for their Web sites to run in all browsers, even though performance in different browsers might not be the same.

Platform previews for IE 10 will appear every 12 weeks (a switch from eight weeks), allowing Microsoft to get continuous developer feedback, according to Microsoft's announcement. With that schedule, the next platform preview for IE 10 should appear in the second week of July.

The platform preview of IE 10 contains a demonstration of gradient backgrounds, exploited using CSS 3 technology. These gradient backgrounds are typically created through graphics programs, but Microsoft used the HTML 5 spec in IE 10 platform preview to achieve the effect. A Microsoft-produced video claims that Webkit-based browsers, such as Google Chrome and Apple Safari, use "different markup" to create such gradients.

Another demo with the IE 10 platform preview shows how multiple columns are handled through CSS 3. Varying-length paragraphs of text from a Twitter feed are flowed into multiple columns. Microsoft's video shows the text being clipped off in Mozilla Firefox 4.

Also with this platform preview release, Microsoft continues to hammer home its point that the browser, operating system and graphics acceleration hardware all contribute to the user experience. IE 9 only works with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It doesn't work with Windows XP, which may no longer be the most used operating system anymore, at least in the U.S. market, according to one source.

Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Internet Explorer made those points and more on stage during MIX keynote address and in Microsoft's IE blog. He stated in the IE blog that "the only native experience of the Web and HTML5 today is on Windows 7 with IE9." Oddly, that statement leaves out Vista users. Hachamovitch also explained a little more in the blog why Microsoft isn't supporting Windows XP with IE 9.

"Browsers that use modern operating systems more directly deliver better experiences," Hachamovitch wrote. "Browsers that compromise (by spreading across too many OSes and OS versions) face challenges. For example, building a new browser for the ten-year old version of Windows that came with IE6 [Windows XP] didn't make sense to us because of the limitations of its graphics and security architectures."

The hardware acceleration issue was demonstrated in the new IE 10 platform preview in a fish-tank demo, which is now a fish bowl. Microsoft's video shows that the Google Chrome 11 browser is unable to match the animation and rendering speeds of the IE 10 platform preview.

Users of IE 9 need a graphics processing unit (GPU) in their machine that is capable of hardware acceleration to see the optimum HTML 5 speed improvements. Microsoft's IE 9 browser actually checks to see if the GPU and drivers of a user's machine will perform faster than software emulation. If not, IE 9 will switch to software emulation using its Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform (WARP), a DirectX emulator. The fallback to WARP can sometimes be avoided by upgrading the machine's GPU drivers. Microsoft explains those details here.

Microsoft also made a number of other announcements of interest to developers during the MIX 11 keynote address, which are described here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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