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Final Internet Explorer 9 preview released -- tons of fixes, speed-ups, and only 8 weeks until the beta

Slightly ahead of schedule, Microsoft has just squeezed out the fourth and final IE9 developer preview.

From the outset, the news is much the same as the previous release: More hardware acceleration! Faster! More standards compliant! But there's some juicy stuff under the hood, too -- read on, if you want technical details. If you want developer-level stuff, check the IE team's new blog post.

First, it looks like audio is now hardware accelerated. There's both a multi-track mixer/sampling demo, and some daft Hamster Dance Revolution game -- both show off strong audio processing abilities. I've never really thought of audio as being important for the Web platform, but I guess if we're going to see increasingly-complex in-the-browser games and applications, having hardware audio access is highly desirable.

Next, there's yet more support and hardware acceleration for SVG animation. Have a go with the dice rolling demo or the aforementioned music games -- pretty damn cool for in-the-browser animation, eh?

Finally, with JavaScript performance (they've moved Chakra inside the rendering engine, it seems) and standards compliance (Acid3 score of 95/100!) both getting very close to both Opera and Chrome, IE9 looks in fine shape to regain the trust of developers. With the platform now finished, it's now up to the IE team (and Microsoft!) to woo the big-money developers and content providers. There's a lot of new and exciting functionality in IE9, but it's going to take time and skill to utilize it successfully.

My only real concern is that the Internet Explorer team has put a lot of its eggs in the hardware accelerated basket. Firefox 4.0 will be hardware accelerated, and Opera has also confirmed that hardware acceleration is in the pipeline. It makes you wonder what Google has up its sleeve -- the Internet isn't just about JavaScript performance, and when you take that ace away from Chrome, it doesn't have much else. But when every browser has hardware acceleration, what can IE9 bring to the table?

Surely it then becomes a matter of end-user experience. If IE9 launches later this year, it might have the edge for a while, but the whole point of open standards like HTML, CSS, JS and SVG is that every browser can support them. I worry that the Internet Explorer team might produce a fantastic browser, but one that simply isn't as usable or functional as either Firefox or Opera. We shall see!

Tags: developer preview, DeveloperPreview, html5, ie9, internet, internet explorer, internet explorer 9, InternetExplorer, InternetExplorer9, microsoft, standards, svg, web, web platform, WebPlatform

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