Internet Explorer 9 enters beta stage

Internet Explorer might have got a bad press from browser aficionados, but Microsoft's hoping to turn that all around with IE9.

The software mammoth has just released the fourth and final Platform Preview of the browser, which is the last step before it enters the beta stage.

You can take the new preview for a spin yourself if you feel inclined, by taking your current web browser over here. On the MSDN blogs Microsoft's Internet Explorer general manager, Dean Hachamovitch, explained, "With IE9, we have worked much more closely with the developer community.

"Developers have had an earlier (and more frequently updated) look at the platform. With that early engagement, developer feedback has had a bigger impact than before."

According to Hachamovitch, the previous Platform Previews have now been downloaded over 2.5 million times, which should hopefully mean plenty of sites are being built with the new browser in mind.

"Platform Preview 4 is an important milestone on the way to beta," says Hachamovitch. "It is the last preview before the IE9 Beta. The IE9 platform is nearly complete. We ask that developers and partners start testing in preparation for the beta and prepare their sites to take advantage of IE9's new capabilities."

The new Platform Preview was released around eight weeks after the third version, and Microsoft has launched a number of new demos to show off the browser's HTML 5 and full GPU hardware-acceleration.

One of these is IE Beatz; a virtual drum machine that enables you to pick which drum sounds go where in a pattern. If your browser is fast enough, it should be able to do this flawlessly without dropping below the 230bpm (beats per minute) tempo target.

We first tried this out with a Core 2 Quad machine containing 3GB of RAM and a Radeon HD 4850. Using Google Chrome, the demo ran at 12fps, and struggled to hit the tempo target. However, when using IE9 Platform Preview 4, the frame rate jumped up to 39fps and never shifted from the tempo target.

There are a number of other demos as well, including a new aquarium filled with Siamese fighting fish. Luckily these digital fish don't have the same habit of ripping each other apart as their real-life counterparts, so you can fill your screen with 1,000 of them in IE9, while still retaining a 60fps frame rate.

As well as featuring support for HTML 5, the fourth Platform Preview also integrates Microsoft's new 'Chakra' JavaScript engine into the system, and takes advantage of GPU-acceleration via Direct2D and DirectWrite.