Updates to this story
TechEye arrived a little late at the IE9 launch held in London's Hospital Club. Fittingly, our write up is a tad late too. We were just in time to catch Leila Martine, head of Windows, showing off Internet Explorer 9 in all of its shiny, quick glory. Here's what we learned from the event.
First off, Microsoft was very keen to let us know that IE9 is "five times safer" than Google's Chrome. With Windows 7 going leaps and bounds ahead of Vista and decimating all expectations it's nice to know that security's a top issue for MS on the latest Internet Exploder. However we have to wonder how often it will be patched - compared to Chrome which receives constant updates - and it got us thinking that it may be "five times safer" at launch, but that's at launch.
Security gubbins were compared to broccoli. Not the most fun thing in the world but it's super good for you.
The spokesvole on stage told us that it's the safest browser for malware by far. A friend of TechEye commented: "Isn't the security undermined by backdoors in the OS?" Though we quite like Windows 7.
Regarding the UI it's simple fare and it's pleasing on the eye. After surveying a bunch of people during market research Microsoft reckons that generally, people only use twelve commands on their browsers and the "back" button is the most common of them all. That's why it's larger than a first gen Xbox controller.
In terms of power it packed a punch. Putting up a split screen HTML5 demo between Chrome and IE9, it displayed a virtual think, er, fish tank with a lot of fishes swimming around. Starting off with twenty, IE9 handled them well. Chrome could manage fluid motion as well but couldn't hack it when the numbers were pushed up to 100 - IE9 had the entire ocean on methamphetamines, zipping around faster than the eye could follow. This, said Highfield, demonstrates IE9 taking advantage of the GPU.
Animated band The Gorillaz* was there to talk us through how great IE9 is. The character they brought in was Murdoch - which makes him the only Murdoch who favours MS over Apple that we know of. Murdoch talked us through the new Gorillaz site which is HTML5 enabled and optimised for IE9, first leading us through a virtual island which he told us was "A Pirate's dream". Cheeky!
Another example of a site optimised for HTML5 was a French interactive comic book with cowboys in it. Martine told us this is "what all websites should look like" - before it promptly crashed. D'oh! Still, she was quick to point out the fast recovery which was very speedy. The name of the game was "web pages as the new apps" - using a test page co-built with Amazon as an example.
They do look great and will be perfect for touch and tablet devices.
However we feel plain text is still going to be important. Not neccessarily to compare Flash to HTML5 as that would be unfair - but a memory intensive flash website often isn't as easy and intuitive to navigate as plain text. We feel they should probably co-exist.
Still - IE9 looks the business and if nothing else Microsoft showcased the power under the bonnet nicely.
*We met Damon Albarn, of The Gorillaz, in the bog. Er... He kindly offered the cubicle to us first but we declined. Nice man.