Microsoft's next-generation web browser will use your graphics hardware for more than just Crysis.
Besides Windows 8.1, another big topic at Microsoft Build 2013 is Internet Explorer 11. Not surprisingly, IE11 was designed with touch technologies heavily in mind, given the new focus of Windows 8 and the new generation of devices. IE11 will also allow users to pin active and live tiles to the Start Screen, rather than just a static link. Websites that still use mouse-over hover features, such a Ebay's navigation tabs, rarely worked well on tablets, but IE11 preserves that functionality.
Under the hood, IE11 has further speed improvements. Microsoft boasts that current testing has IE11 performing better on the SunSpider benchmark better than the rest of the pack. Microsoft further demonstrated its speed leadership by showing off a WebGL page with a rotating Windows logo. On IE11, the animations were smooth, while running the same demo on Firefox was very slow and laggy. A similar grass growing demo called Lawn Mark also showed IE11 as being faster than the latest Google Chrome.
While we're sure that the engineering team has done what it can to optimize performance in software, a the performance delta shown between IE11 and the rest is all thanks to hardware acceleration. All the demonstrations were GPU accelerated. Not only did the video acceleration make multimedia smoother, but also the rendering of text, the scrolling of web pages, and the entire JPEG pipeline. Microsoft claims that IE11 renders text 30% faster than the competition.
Other improvements behind the scenes include web pre-fetching, pre-render, and instant back navigation. This means less waiting and could be a boon to those on slower connections. IE11 will also support adaptive streaming, which will make for a better YouTube experience. Microsoft also demonstrated Netflix running inside the browser in HTML5 -- no Silverlight plugin needed.
Just as how Windows 8.1 allows for more multi-window option, so too does IE11. Other new features include tabs displaying in the modern app mode, as well as syncing of tabs, favorites and frequently visited sites across devices -- if the user chooses to. Taking a page from other browsers, IE11 offers a feature called Reading List that can save a webpage for future reading.
IE11 is shaping up to be a browser that will change people's perceptions of Internet Explorer. To reach as big a reach as possible, IE11 will also be available on Windows 7.
Those interested in checking out a preview of IE11 right now can find it on the Windows Store.