IE 9 Beta launching September 15th

Although Microsoft hasn’t named a release date for IE9’s beta, the six-to-eight week stretch between each Platform Preview may provide a clue: If the company sticks to the same gap between the fourth preview and the beta, the latter should show on or after September 15…….

Once again, the whispers were true. Microsoft has proudly announced on this fine day that September 15th will mark the official launch of the Internet Explorer 9 Beta, but details beyond that are scant. We do know that the Big M will hold a gala in San Francisco to celebrate “The Beauty of the Web,” and once it hits the tubes, you’ll need either Vista or Windows 7 to use it (sorry, XP loyalists).

In IE9 Platform Preview 4, Microsoft has integrated its new JavaScript engine into the browser, finished its work on hardware acceleration and boosted performance in several areas, including the Acid3 test, said the IE team’s leader.

Last updated six weeks ago, the IE9 Platform Preview is not a full-fledged browser, but instead consists of a minimalist interface wrapped around Microsoft’s newest rendering and JavaScript engines.

When Microsoft debuted IE9 in mid-March, the company committed to updating the IE9 preview approximately every eight weeks until it issues a public beta. That beta is slated to ship next month, according to comments made last week by Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer.

The fourth preview includes fixes for previously reported bugs, wraps up the graphics processor-powered audio, video and text acceleration, and moves Microsoft’s new “Chakra” JavaScript engine inside the browser for better performance, Hachamovitch said.

One aspect of [meeting our goals] is integrating the JavaScript engine natively inside the browser, rather than bolting it onto the side to support multiple JavaScript engines as some other browsers do today,” Hachamovitch said, taking a shot at rivals such as Mozilla’s Firefox. “How a JavaScript engine is integrated into the browser is as important as the engine itself for real-world HTML5.

Although Microsoft once downplayed JavaScript speeds – Hachamovitch dismissed the contest for fastest browser as just a “drag race” during IE8’s development – it’s aggressively touted Chakra’s performance.

According to Hachamovitch, IE9 Platform Preview 4 scores better on the SunSpider JavaScript test suite than all rivals except Google’s Chrome and Opera Software’s Opera. Microsoft’s SunSpider results differ from our own latest, which pegged Apple’s Safari as the fastest on Windows, with Opera and Google Chrome close behind.

On the Acid3 benchmark, which checks how closely a browser follows certain web standards, the IE9 Platform Preview 4 scored 95 out of a possible 100, the highest ever for a Microsoft browser. The score was a 14% improvement over Platform Preview 3.

Hachamovitch hinted that the score of 95 would be IE9’s best effort, arguing that the standards which prevent it from acing the benchmark are “in transition” and thus unlikely to get full support from Microsoft.

IE is on a two-month upswing  in usage share, according to the most recent data from Net Applications, and Microsoft has to hope that when it ships in final form, that IE9 will be able to turn around the browser’s long-term decline.

The 16MB Platform Preview 4 can be downloaded from Microsoft’s site.Unlike production versions, the IE9 preview can run alongside other editions, such as IE7 on Vista or IE8 on Windows 7. However, neither the Platform Preview nor the final version of IE9 will run on Windows XP, a sticking point with some users of that nine-year-old operating system.

‘Course, it remains to be seen if IE can catch up to Chrome and Firefox in the technical department, but at least you can start preparing your existing squeeze for somewhat of a letdown next month. Let ’em down easy, okay?


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