Microsoft previews Internet Explorer 10

Preaching the mantra of HTML5, Microsoft began offering on Tuesday a preview of its planned Internet Explorer 10 browser, which emphasizes the critical Web specification and its visual effects.

The browser offers CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheets) capabilities and accelerated graphics. “We’re hard at work on IE10 on some forward-looking things,” said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division at Microsoft, during a presentation Wednesday at the Mix11 conference in Las Vegas. Company officials demonstrated the IE10 platform preview, featuring HTML5 video, CSS3 gradients, and 3D transforms. The preview, which was shown running on a machine running an ARM processor, also boasted faster SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), CSS3 Flexible Box Layout capabilities, and ECMAscript 5 Strict language improvements.

Microsoft is about three weeks into the development of IE10. The preview is available at the IE Test Drive site, said Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft corporate vice president of Internet Explorer. He also stressed Microsoft’s adherence to “native HTML5,” which is supported in IE9, which was released four weeks ago. “You and your site can take advantage of that today and deliver significantly better browser experiences.” Native HTML, Hachamovitch said, means “that you really use the language to take advantage of the underlying OS” and leverage hardware acceleration.

Updates to the IE10 platform preview are planned for every eight to 12 weeks. No specific time was offered for a general release of the browser. Hachamovitch acknowledged the browser upgrades at user sites can be a slow process. He cited an example of a hospital nuclear imaging system he was aware of that still used IE6. “Sometimes, the old versions just take a while to go away.”

Despite’s Microsoft’s emphasis on HTML5, seen as a rival to the company’s proprietary Silverlight rich Internet application plug-in, a beta release of Silverlight 5 also is due to be released at the conference. But in touting HTML5, Hachamovitch stressed it offers capabilities previously requiring a plug-in. “Native HTML5 support within Windows in IE9 makes a huge difference in what these sites can do.”

Microsoft is acknowledging that HTML5 “is the language for developing front ends on the Web,” said analyst Al Hilwa, of IDC. “The position on Silverlight is no different than that articulated earlier. It seems to me that Silverlight will remain native-type technology as an extension of .Net into lighter-weight devices. Silverlight will likely be heavily used in Windows 8 tablets, but we will not know for sure until September.”

Microsoft also announced the availability this morning of Windows Azure cloud platform capabilities, including services to accelerate application performance and enable secure Web access via popular identity providers like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google. A preview of a traffic management capability for Azure, to balance application performance across different geographies, was made available as well. Additionally, Microsoft unveiled a preview of a Windows Azure content delivery network for media streaming.

Also from Microsoft on Tuesday, version 1.1 of the Orchard project was rolled out, for delivering applications and reusable components based on ASP.Net. Improvements include a “Recipes” feature for streamlining setup, a new admin panel design, usability and workflow improvements more extensibility and customization. Orchard features a content management system and blogging support out of the box. The company also refreshed of its ASP.Net MVC (Model-View Controller) 3 software, with tools offering HTML5 capabilities.

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