Microsoft has shared very few details so far about Internet Explorer (IE) 9, but has said the company is planning to accelerate the performance of text and graphics rendering by taking advantage of the power of PCs' graphics-processing unit (GPU).
Specifically, Microsoft officials said at the Professional Developers Conference last week that with IE9, it will be "moving all graphics and text rendering from the CPU (and GDI) to the graphics card using Direct2D and DirectWrite." (Istartedsomething blogger Long Zheng posted a good write up on Microsoft's hardware-acceleration plans for IE 9 last week, if you want more details.)
But as News.com reported on November 24, Microsoft isn't the only browser provider planning to harness hardware acceleration. Mozilla is planning to do the same with Firefox. Firefox developers have posted a prototype demonstrating the ability to take advantage of Direct2D and DirectWrite. Google is interested in the possibilities of hardware-accelerating Chrome, as well, as News.com's Stephen Shankland notes. Unsurprisingly, the Chrome team is keeping any plans, concrete or otherwise, close to the vest.
The Mozilla folks already are claiming they believe they'll be first to deliver a hardware-accelerated browser. I'd bet they're right. Microsoft officials aren't saying when to expect a test or final version of IE 9. But if the IE team stays on the same trajectory that it followed with IE 8, I'd bet the earliest we'll see a final version of IE9 is spring 2011. (My calculation? I'm betting Windows 8 will be released in summer/fall 2011, two years after Windows 7 was released to market, and that IE 9 -- the version of the browser that will be part of Windows 8, will hit a few months earlier.)
Besides being unwilling to share dates, the Microsoft folks also are not yet talking about which versions of Windows they plan to support with IE 9. Will Microsoft still support XP machines with the next version of IE? There's no word. My guess is IE 9 won't work on XP. And based on the less-than-optimal way IE 8 runs on lower-memory XP machines, I'd say XP users might want to steer clear of it if it does run.