Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 9 leverages both PC hardware and Windows 7 to provide a speedier and more colorful experience.
Microsoft went simple in Internet Explorer 9, the next iteration of its
browser franchise released March 14-stripping down the user interface and
rendering the frame translucent, the better to place Websites front-and-center.
But that wasn't the only substantive change. Microsoft claims-perhaps
inevitably-that this new browser
sets benchmarks for speed, security and content support.
If anything, IE9 demonstrates Microsoft's increased ability to boot a
particular platform or application's abilities by leveraging other products in
its software portfolio. To wit, IE9 relies on Windows 7 for some of its most
eye-popping features, including the ability to drag-and-drop a Website tab to
the Windows 7 taskbar, transforming it into an icon that can, when
right-clicked, open up a "jump list" full of one-click links to that
Website's most vital content. Windows 7 users can also "Aero Snap"
their browser windows to the left or right of the screen, which comes in handy
when organizing multiple Websites or trying to view two Web pages side-by-side.
engine, to help speedily render rich Web content. And in practice, the browser
certainly feels speedy in use. After a day of extremely limited eWEEK testing,
it has yet to stall or choke, even under the weight of multiple, element-heavy
For the security conscious-or simply the excessively paranoid-IE9 comes with
a number of security and privacy features designed to impart peace of mind.
InPrivate Browsing allows Web surfing without leaving any traces that can be
discovered later. The baked-in SmartScreen Filter evaluates potentially suspect
Websites based on their reputation and notifies the user accordingly with
pop-up windows and a list of suggested actions (for those who like to live a
little dangerously, this feature can also be turned off). And Tracking
Protection lets users decide which types of information they want viewable by
third parties (depending on settings, though, blocking some content could also
limit what a Website displays).
IE9 may operate to best effect with Windows 7, but it won't run at all with
Windows XP. That could prove problematic in the short term for Microsoft, given
to analytics firm Net Applications
-some 55.09 percent of PCs still run XP.
That effectively shuts off IE9 from a substantial portion of personal computers
that continue to support its rivals, including Firefox; in this scenario, the
best Microsoft can hope for is that the migration from XP to Windows 7
continues at a steady rate.
According to Net Applications, Microsoft's share of the browser market
currently stands at 56.77 percent, followed by Firefox at 21.74 percent, Google
Chrome at 10.93 percent and Safari at 6.36 percent. For Internet Explorer, that
represents a decline from the 68.46 percent it held in March 2009.
Even as Microsoft begins its quest to draw users to Internet Explorer 9, it
has advocated that users cease their relationship with the increasingly
antiquated IE6. "Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer 6,"
reads a specially designed Website, "The
Internet Explorer 6 Countdown,"
tailor-made by Microsoft for that
purpose. "And neither should acquaintances."
That's because Microsoft is now offering, with much fanfare, a speedier and