First look review of the "platform preview" of Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, including what it will bring to web Standards, and how to get IE9.

What does IE9 bring to the party?

The Platform Preview of Internet Explorer 9 will run only in Windows 7, Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) and Windows Server R2. The latter two operating systems require the Platform Update that Microsoft shipped last October. That update was notable for adding other Windows 7 features, such as that operating system's ribbon-style interface , to Vista last year.

Internet Explorer has received a fair amount of criticism in the past for its tepid web standards support. With IE9, however, Microsoft is heavily touting its improved handing of new web technologies.

The IE9 Platform Preview provides improved HTML5 support, CSS 3 support (CSS is a technology that makes it easier for designers to specify how they want their sites to look), and an upgraded JavaScript Engine for better performance of web apps.

Also, IE9 will provide hardware acceleration for rendering graphics and text on a web page (Microsoft's press release didn't mention which GPUs will be supported, but it's probably safe to assume you'll need a fairly recent card), and built-in support for H.264 video playback using HTML5 (such as what YouTube currently provides for some videos).

Microsoft has several technology demos on its IE9 Test Drive site, such as a T-shirt designer, various animation demos, and even a variation of the classic game Asteroids. None of these demos use Flash; instead they all make use of web technologies such as JavaScript and HTML5.

How do I get Internet Explorer 9?

The IE9 Platform Preview is a free download from Microsoft; since it's nowhere close to being a finished project, it won't replace your current version of Internet Explorer. Be sure to download it and try out some of the demos.

Unlike full-fledged editions of IE, the IE9 Platform Preview does not replace existing versions of IE - such as IE7 on Vista or IE8 on Windows 7 - but runs alongside them on the same PC.

The preview is a 31MB download, and can be retrieved from the Test Drive site that Microsoft has set up.

If Microsoft can match its promises, Internet Explorer 9 could be the product that takes the fight back to fast-gaining rivals such as Firefox and - more recently - Opera and Google Chrome. With unparalleled compatibility, HTML5 and the ability to make the most of modern graphics hardware, it is an enticing prospect.

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Microsoft Internet Explorer 9: Specs

  • Windows 7, Windows Vista SP2
  • internet connection
  • Windows 7, Windows Vista SP2
  • internet connection

SHOULD I BUY MICROSOFT INTERNET EXPLORER 9?

If you've stopped using Internet Explorer because of speed problems or a tired-looking interface, you should give IE9 a try. You'll be surprised by its dramatic speed improvements and slicker interface. Improved adherence to Web standards is a plus as well, as are new features such as a double-duty address bar and the Performance Advisor. Existing IE users will want to upgrade right away -- it's hard to argue against a faster, cleaner-looking browser with a host of other nice extras.