At an event at the SXSW (South by Southwest) music festival on the evening of March 14, Microsoft officially rolled out Internet Explorer 9. In doing so, it beat Mozilla to the upgrade finish line, as Firefox 4 is still a week or two away. Google, meanwhile, debuted its Chrome 10 browser last week.
On the appearance and usability fronts, IE9 showcases Microsoft's new browser philosophy. "The browser is the stage, or backdrop, for the Web, and the sites are the star of the show," said Dean Hachamovitch, product manager in charge of IE, in a post on Microsoft's IEBlog announcing the IE9 release candidate. "People go to the Web for sites, not the browser."
To that end, the interface has been simplified, reflecting a design trend seen in competitors like Chrome and Firefox. And after studying the browsing habits of end-users, Microsoft has borrowed from Windows 7's Aero Snap functionality to allow IE9 users a side-by-side view of two Web pages where they once had to switch between multiple browser tabs. Additionally, the New Tab page offers up a selection of links to the user's most-visited sites.
"Our point of view is, 'just works' involves fewer options and staying out of the user's way," said Hachamovitch.
As for the potential user base, Microsoft is cutting itself off from millions of users by not making IE9 available for Windows XP systems. The company says that IE9 requires "a modern operating system" -- that is, Windows Vista or Windows 7. In particular, IE9's graphics acceleration requires Direct2D and DirectWrite DirectX APIs, which cannot be extended to the decade-old (but still popular) Windows XP.
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