Just four weeks after the final release of its IE9 web browser, Microsoft has released a developer preview of IE10. Company executives demonstrated a range of new web features, and again demonstrated the power of the hardware acceleration introduced in the current browser.

The onstage demo, at Microsoft's MIX11 conference this week in Las Vegas, pitted the IE10 preview against Google Chrome. In most cases, IE10 was notably faster and smoother than Chrome with a range of HTML5 and CSS3 features.

During the presentation, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Windows Internet Explorer Dean Hachamovitch said that HTML5 and similar emerging web standards were making web applications behave more like native apps. Microsoft's goal in the just released IE9 and the upcoming IE10 is to extend and improve that "native" quality for the web. "The only native experience of the web and HTML5 today is on Windows 7 with IE9," he said.

Not everyone is enthusiastic, as comments to the blogpost transcript of Hachamovitch's keynote make clear. 

The IE10 preview, which as released for developers today, showed off a number of emerging web standards including:

  • CSS3 Multi-column Layout - content can flow from one column to another, while columns themselves can vary in number based on the size of the viewport. And pulling the markup for presentation tables from documents means the documents themselves can be more easily presented on various form factors.
  • CSS3 Grid Layout - grids are a way to create a wide range of different layouts, by dividing up space for regions of an application, or by defining the relationship between parts of a HTML-based control.
  • CSS3 Gradients - these are a type of image that shows a smooth fading between different colours, used to create shading in background images, buttons or other objects on a web page.

Also on tap is support for CSS3 Flexible Box Layout, an additional format for displaying related boxes on a web page, and other emerging web specifications that will be added in later previews of IE10. Microsoft says those iterative releases will come every eight to 12 weeks.

According to Microsoft, what web developers really want is web standards that are native to a given operating system, for optimal performance and consistency. "Native implementations are just better for developers, consumers, and businesses," Hachamovitch declared. "While using cross-platform, non-native compatibility layers makes browser development easier, they don't necessarily make a better browser. Browsers that use modern operating systems more directly deliver better experiences."

IE9 doesn't run on Windows XP, for example. "[B]uilding a new browser for the ten year old version of Windows that came with IE6 didn't make sense to us because of the limitations of its graphics and security architectures," Hachamovitch said. "Our focus has been on enabling the same markup by delivering native HTML5 to Windows with full hardware acceleration and working closely with the standards bodies and the community."

The "platform preview" of IE10 is available on Microsoft's IE "Test Drive" site, along with demonstrations of HTML5 interoperability and advanced graphics and speed tests.