The first thing I thought of when I opened both Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4 for the first time? Chrome. I realize and appreciate there's only so much you can and want to do with a browser -- so there's nothing wrong with a similar look. After all, at least 95 percent of the browser windows should be devoted to the website itself and its efforts to wow you. As the IE9 Help page says, you want a "simplified design" -- in this case, à la Google's take, whether in a nod to its search engine or its browser.
Don't think I'm saying boo to Microsoft for copying another design -- I'm not. If that design is better in some ways, by all means copy it. Copy it to the hilt (within legal limits). I'm sick of the talk about what's "fair" in the world of the Winklevii. Whoever gets to market first, whoever advertises the best, whoever can be innovative in some areas while knowing when to copy in others -- those are the winners in this game.
Thus, I downloaded Google Chrome 10 and Mozilla Firefox 4 to begin my comparison to IE9. One thing I can say is that it would take an eagle eye to see the difference between them in terms of provided site real estate. All three did everything they could to minimize the amount of space they used at the top. I give Mozilla the thumbs-up for Firefox's use of space. Mozilla is also the only developer that went out of its way to provide a colored tab in the top left of its browser (small but noticeable), which helped me find what I needed; every other browser blended the colors between the tabs.
But it's clear that all three are following the same concept that Dean Hachamovitch, product manager in charge of IE, has stated: "People go to the Web for sites, not the browser." How true.
How IE9's features compare to Firefox and Chrome
I like the look of IE 9 and some of its new features.
Pin sites to the taskbar: Designating sites as favorites was cute when the Internet was something we visited, not lived on. Now that I live on it, I want one-click access to many of my sites, and having the ability to pin them to the IE9 taskbar makes it much easier to reach for those sites. Firefox or Chrome can't claim this capability, perhaps because they aren't developing both Windows and IE9 and don't have access to the taskbar, as Microsoft does.