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A screenshot of Browser Flip game on Microsoft's IE9 developer site. Browser Flip uses standard HTML, CSS and JavaScript markup to flip over tiles and expose hidden images. (Microsoft.com)
A screenshot of Browser Flip game on Microsoft's IE9 developer site. Browser Flip uses standard HTML, CSS and JavaScript markup to flip over tiles and expose hidden images. (Microsoft.com)

Microsoft bets on new browser to regain its edge Add to ...

Microsoft Corp. could regain the edge over rivals Google Inc. and Mozilla Firefox with its new Web browser due to be launched next year, the head of Microsoft Internet Explorer said.

Ryan Gavin said in an interview Microsoft was generating a high level of interest in Internet Explorer 9 from the external software developers who are key to its success, thanks to new capabilities and a new, more open approach toward such third parties.

Microsoft, which was overtaken on Wednesday by Apple Inc. as the world's most valuable technology company, has seen Internet Explorer's market share dwindle to 60 per cent from about 95 per cent in the early 2000s.

U.S. and European regulators have helped rival browsers like Google Chrome to flourish by loosening the ties between Internet Explorer and Microsoft's Windows operating system that runs 90 per cent of the world's personal computers.

Google is developing a rival operating system based on its Chrome browser, which is intended to be leaner and more Web-friendly than Windows, as well as being free.

Microsoft is betting IE9 will provide a far superior visual experience to currently available browsers by harnessing the power of the computer's graphics processor via Windows to accelerate the software process.

With HTML5, a new Web standard gaining in popularity, it also hopes to be able to deliver powerful visuals via a single mark-up language readable by all browsers, simplifying the life of developers and improving the user experience.

HTML5 makes possible rich applications like video on the Web that are currently enabled by Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's own, far less widely used Silverlight technology.

HTML5 is already at the centre of a public row between Adobe and Apple, which has rejected Flash on the iPhone and iPad in favour of HTML5.

"We are putting HTML5 at the centre of IE9. We are all in with HTML5," Gavin told Reuters.

"Today, if developers want to use the exact same markup, they use plug-ins - Silverlight and Flash - to do that. HTML5 is going to give developers that capability for things like graphics and video in the future."

Asked how long he thought it would be until HTML5 made Flash and Silverlight redundant, Gavin said: "I think the plug-in model with standards is a thing that's going to continue to cohabit (with HTML5)".

With IE9, Microsoft has decided to engage developers openly at a far earlier stage than usual by releasing a test-drive platform containing its basic components, to create excitement and iron out bugs. "We started with a new model with IE9, it's the first time we've ever done it," Gavin said. "It's basically a way for developers to see in a highly secure, well-tested environment what are the new capabilities we're building."

He said the platform had been downloaded about a million times since the first version was published in March. Microsoft is updating it once every eight weeks.

Responses from developers on the Microsoft IE blog have been mixed. Many welcome the new possibilities, but many also complain IE9 requires the latest Windows 7 or Vista software to run.

"You guys have turned around a 10 year sinking torpedo," writes James Tiedt on the blog. But AlfonsoML asks the blunt question: "What good is a browser if most of the people keep using XP and won't be able to use it?"

Nine-year-old XP still has 63 per cent of the total operating-system market, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications. Vista has 16 per cent and Windows 7 has 12 per cent, with non-Windows systems on 10 per cent.

 
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