As the race between web browsers heat up, Microsoft makes public its plan to use the computer’s graphic processor to make image and text rendering faster on its to-be-released browser, Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). But then again, the company is really not the only one to think of this next step. Its closest competitors Firefox and Opera are also in the process of integrating the PC’s graphic processor unit in the functions of their browsers.
Plans for the new IE9 were revealed just recently by Steven Sinofsky, Windows and Windows Live president. According to Sinofsky, IE9 work has made significant progress so far. Further details were given by Dean Hachamovitch, IE’s general manager.
According to Hachamovitch, IE9 will switch from using Window’s Graphic Device Interface to making the most of Direct2D and DirectWrite APIs. This way, images and text are rendered faster and without compromising as much RAM. According to him, one good reason why consumers get so much from their PC hardware is because of the machine’s graphics. This is why IE9 is placed on top of the graphics engine of Windows, which is DirectX.
The Direct2D and DirectWrite APIs will move the burden of processing to the GPU, instead of the CPU. Hachamovitch also stated that the acceleration of the graphics hardware will result in faster rendering for graphically rich sites without slowing down the CPU.
Early results of IE9 development show a promising 40 to 60 frames per second using Direct2D. This is akin to gaming graphic quality, a great improvement from the 5 to 10 frames per second using GDI. On the other hand, DirectWrite APIs have resulted in sharper text rendering.
Hachamovitch claims that there’s nothing more that website developers can do to make their pages run faster on IE9. He claims that because of this development, web creators can maximize the changes in the hardware ecosystem’s graphics without having to redo the whole site.
Microsoft and others
Clearly, the immediate issues for IE9 seem to not be about the details of the new browser. These have more to do with competitors that are on the same page and are developing similar technologies. Both Mozilla (Firefox) and Opera are working on the same browser acceleration through improved graphics and text rendering.
Mozilla’s efforts are focused on the OpenGL for open platforms and the different APIs for Windows. This is an expansion of the Windows IE9 project since it seeks to develop faster browsers even for those not using the Windows platform. The same efforts are being made by Opera.
Both companies are also exploring the possibilities of extending the benefits of graphics-based browsers from the web to mobile devices like smartphones. These will be under Firefox’s Fennec and Opera’s mobile version.