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Internet Explorer 9 beta due on September 15

IE's new look to be unveiled

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Microsoft has named the date for the first beta of its successor to Internet Explorer 8.

You'll be able to download beta code for IE9 on September 15, the company said Thursday. Microsoft told The Reg that it's not releasing code to MSDN subscribers in advance, followed by everybody else.

Microsoft is planning to formally open the download gates for IE9 at an event in San Francisco called "Beauty of the Web".

The beta will finally unveil the IE9 interface that's so far been missing from the preview editions of the browser released to testers.

IE9 will be the most standards-compatible version of IE in Microsoft's history. Support for HTML5 has been expanded to include HTML5 video and audio elements, 2D graphics using the highly-anticipated Canvas element, and there's support for embedded fonts using Web Open Font Format (WOFF).

IE9 will also run Google's open sourced WebM video codec plus the closed and proprietary H.264 from Microsoft, Apple, and others.

IE9 also features a new script engine, Chakra, that uses hardware to boost performance to within 50 milliseconds of Safari, Opera, and Chrome on SunSpider benchmarks.

The title of Microsoft's event suggests the company is pushing IE9 as something for building and delivering rich graphics and internet applications using web standards and fast, hardware-accelerated rendering.

The goal is for the IE9 beta to be good enough for use by a broad range of users — or, as Microsoft web product manager Mark Quirk, told Reg reviewer Tim Anderson earlier this month "anyone who is comfortable installing and uninstalling applications."

Before, Microsoft delivered two betas: one for developers and the other for developers plus everybody else.

Microsoft has not said whether there'll be a second beta or when final IE9 will be released, but Quirk did promise the finished version would come "not too long" after the beta.

Given that the beta is in September and Microsoft released IE8 at its Mix conference in March 2009, it would seem reasonable to assume IE9 will be released at the next Mix in March 2011 — if the event goes ahead — two years after IE8.

Microsoft hopes IE9's embrace of standards will help arrest IE's dropping market share of recent years. IE hovers at 60 per cent, up barely from a low earlier this year of 59.95 per cent.

The question for IE9 will be how far it can erode Firefox and stop the drift to Google's Chrome. Microsoft claims 2.5 million downloads of the IE9 platform previews since code was first delivered at Mix earlier this year.®

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