Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) late Monday, claiming that it's the best browser for Windows because rivals "dilute" their energies on other operating systems.
"[IE9] brings all the benefits of a modern PC, with Windows, to browsing the web," said Dean Hachamovitch, the head of IE's engineering group, at the start of a webcast from SXSW.
"The browser is only as good as the operating system," said Ryan Gavin, senior director of IE. "On a going-forward basis, the browser will be only as good as the OS and the device it's running on."
Owning the ecosystem
The message couldn't be clearer: Because Microsoft knows Windows, and develops only for Windows, IE9 is the best browser for the operating system. So much for rivals like Chrome, Firefox and Opera on Windows, or Safari on Mac OS.
Microsoft's tying of IE9 to Windows shouldn't be a surprise: In the past, the company has touted key features, like "pinning," that rely on Windows 7, and it's recently taken to citing Windows-only browser usage statistics, a practice that boosts its share numbers by dismissing other operating systems, notably Apple's.
But Microsoft turned up the volume on Monday.
"We want browsing the web to be a great experience, so that people keep choosing Windows to do it," said Hachamovitch, explaining why IE is important to Microsoft.
"Websites are going to need to tap into the power of the underlying hardware the same way that applications do," said Hachamovitch. "The way they do that is through the browser, and the way the browser is going to do that is through the operating system. So the world just changed."
Microsoft's claim that IE9 is the best browser on Windows rests largely on its hardware acceleration, technology that taps the graphics processor to handle some of the most processing-extensive chores, including composing the page. Microsoft has regularly trumpeted IE9's GPU-based acceleration, first highlighting that feature when it demonstrated the browser nearly a year-and-a-half ago.
Other browsers, notably the upcoming Firefox 4, also offer hardware acceleration on Windows, as well as a more limited form on Mac OS X. But Hachamovitch took shots at rivals, like Firefox and Chrome, another multi-operating system browser, without naming names.
"Other browsers dilute their engineering investments across systems," Hachamovitch said. "Because we focus exclusively on one, IE can make the most of the Windows experience and the hardware."
Mozilla developers would surely disagree. In fact, some already have.
Last week, Robert O'Callahan, a Novell employee who works full time on Mozilla's graphics infrastructure, took exception to an earlier Microsoft blog that said IE9 "fully hardware accelerates the entire web platform," and which cited scores that showed competitors lagged behind IE9.
"Microsoft's message that IE9 is the apex of what a browser can do with the GPU is nonsense," said O'Callahan on his personal blog last Thursday. In a follow-up post a day later he added, "Microsoft's PR about 'full hardware acceleration' is a myth."
Mozilla technology evangelist Asa Dotzler was even more blunt. "Microsoft, stop making bull**** claims about hardware acceleration," Dotzler titled a post to his personal blog last week.
Mozilla and Microsoft have butted heads before over hardware acceleration on Windows, with the former saying it uses the same APIs (application programming interfaces) on Windows 7 as Microsoft to speed up Firefox 4.
Microsoft's Gavin acknowledged that he was aware of Mozilla developers' comments about IE9, but declined to comment on them. Instead he said, "Our focus has been to hardware accelerate text, video, audio and graphics. That's our implementation of hardware acceleration."
Microsoft posted IE9 to its download servers on Monday. The download, which weighs in between 17MB and 35MB is available from the company's Internet Explorer site.