Microsoft on IE9: It’s about the hardware

IE9Microsoft recently launched Internet Explorer 9, which VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar said is the company’s “prettiest browser yet”. I spoke to corporate vice president Dean Hachamovitch about the launch, and he said that prettiness comes from “a new approach” to Internet browsers.

Specifically, he said the IE9 team rejected the philosophy that websites and browsers should run the same across any device — or, as he put it, the misconception that “the Web is the Web is the Web.” That thinking has led to browsers that only take advantage of 10 percent of a normal computer’s capabilities, he said.

Hachamovitch argued that the browser is actually “only as good as the operating system.” That’s why IE9 uses a computer’s graphics processor for faster delivery of text, video, and graphics. (Rick Bergman at chip company Advanced Micro Devices, told VentureBeat that IE9 should lead to better web sites and more usage of graphics chips for non-gaming computing tasks.) And that doesn’t just make a difference on the latest Windows 7 computers; since almost any computer has at least a dual-core processor, even a notebook that only costs a few hundred dollars will see an improvement, he said.

Besides the hardware acceleration, Hachamovitch said one of the IE9 team‘s other big goals was to move the focus away from the browser and toward the website. That’s why the browser allows users to “pin” websites directly to their Windows taskbar, so they can access their favorite websites just as easily as they can the software on their computer.

The design of a pinned site places an even greater emphasis on the website over the browser. A pinned site has its own notifications and site search, and the back button is even colored to match the site’s favicon (the little logo or icon that you see at the top of the browser). Website publishers are already seeing benefits from this approach Microsoft said — for example, the Huffington Post found that 38 percent of visitors on IE9 “pinned” the site, and that those users spent 49 percent more time on the site than other users.