At Mobile Word Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore gave a demonstration of some of the new features coming to Windows Phone 7 in an update to come later this year. The touted features include multitasking, which is for some the Holy Grail of mobile platforms. Somewhat overshadowed by the multitasking features was the demonstration of Internet Explorer 9 for Windows Phone, which is to include many of the features of its desktop counterpart.
The real issue for some WPCentral readers is why they should care about Internet Explorer on Windows Phone? IE has long been the whipping boy among browsers, at least from a PC enthusiast’s standpoint. Lambasted for its lack of security and standards support, Internet Explorer has been losing market share to Google Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox.
Follow the break to learn why Internet Explorer 9 is the single biggest feature coming to Windows Phone 7 in 2011, at least in this writers estimation.
Talking about web standards and HTML5 is a little ironic, as the HTML5 spec will not be a finalized standard for a few more years. Regardless of this fact, HTML5 is a big enough step forward that designers and web developers are using it to make sites that offer incredible functionality without sacrificing by using proprietary code or tools. For many site owners, HTML5 replaces four or five disparate pieces of the web development puzzle. I want to talk about a few of the key elements to HTML5, and what they mean to the end user.
Media & Graphics
One of those things that Apple’s iOS devices have been criticized about since their inception was the lack of Flash support. The obvious reason for this is the proliferation of Flash across a multitude of sites around the web. Truly though, Flash has always been about covering the limitations of HTML and making websites that are both attractive and functional.
HTML5 fills in the gaps of prior versions of HTML by offering a native “Canvas” that allows developers to write code that programmatically performs Flash-like animations. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) support allows drawing of shapes by defining points on a curve. This makes the code and content lightweight when compared to raster graphics, which require information on a per-pixel basis. HTML5’s native audio and video support negate the need for Flash-based audio and video players, though standards for audio and video are still being debated by the industry heavyweights.
Internet Explorer 9 for Windows Phone will also support the latest revision of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS3). Like HTML5, the CSS3 specification is not yet finalized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). CSS is used primarily by web designers as a method of defining the positioning and style of various elements on the page. A lot of the CSS3 features are niceties for developer and designer types, but much of the specification makes for optimized code. With prior versions of CSS the simple act of creating a box with rounded corners required multiple boxes and images spliced and layered together. CSS3 supports these techniques natively, cutting what used to be ten to twenty lines of code by a factor of ten.
Additional Standards & Support
There are a number of additional technological goodies that will be supported in IE9 for Windows Phone including increased support for the Document Object Model (DOM), additional Event handlers, support for Geolocation, and Data URIs. All of these features will allow web developers to create standards-based web applications that function as well on Windows Phone 7 as they do on any other modern-era browser.
With all of the HTML5 and CSS3 native features that will be coming to Windows Phone, hardware acceleration is a key piece to the browser puzzle. With developers changing the way they do things in terms of using HTML5 instead of Flash or Silverlight, there is a lot of code being interpreted on the fly by the browser. Hardware acceleration uses the video chipset to handle the animation and re-drawing in order to make everything flow smoothly. The really cool thing is that hardware acceleration is only now coming to desktop browsers; making Microsoft ahead of the curve in the mobile space.
What about Flash and Silverlight
We don’t know for sure what Microsoft’s plans are for Flash and Silverlight support on Windows Phone 7. Both technologies have been mentioned in the past as something that was in the works, but the discussion has been quiet in recent months. In the long term HTML5 makes such plug-in based technologies obsolete; but for now Flash and Silverlight based sites are commonplace on the web. The topic of browser plug-ins for Windows Phone is something we’ll be listening for at MIX this month.
Make no mistake; IE8 to IE9 is as much an upgrade as Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7, even more so IE7 mobile to its IE9-based successor. Not only will HTML5 and hardware acceleration make it possible for developers to build web applications that rival native apps on Windows Phone, but IE9 will allow Windows Phone users to utilize a host of web content that already supports HTML5 standards. Both Apple and Google already support HTML5 to some degree, and the proliferation of those platforms makes HTML5 an extremely attractive option for mobile developers.
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I've been feeling this way since it was first announced. It gives Microsoft a browser which is no longer inadequate, though I feel the IE7 version on this phone is far superior to anything they have ever released, and honestly, prefer it to Opera that I used to use on WinMo. And if Silverlight support also becomes an included update, with the smoothness and quickness of WinPhone, I think that Microsoft will have the single best default browsing experience. And honestly, one of the biggest convincing factors for me with WinPhone, and why I continue to support it until I run out of breath, is the fact that you don't NEED to download apps to replace what comes on the phone... What comes on it is perfect, you just need additional apps to expand the features... Take IE, FB integration, the photo hub, Zune **** etc... I've never had a Mobile OS that just -worked- as it was.
Exciting stuff! I'd like to see it this year, but also expect Flash and Silverlight support - it will be a while before people settle on HTML5 as their standard medium. Here's to hoping they are ahead of the curve in terms of actual product release - not just inception!
If MS can redeem themselves and pull off a 2011 Mango release and not a Jan / Feb 2012 release backed by a bunch of excuses then I'll go back to recommending wp7 to friends.Personally I think Microsoft show follow what Apple does. Don't talk about and demo beta/alpha updates. Wait till its almost ready and then have a big show and give an exact or month for release. Then follow through. Right now any talk about Mango and updates just makes user ask when.
Microsoft has always been very open about its betas and I wouldn't want it any other way. I don't like Apples need for secrecy behind everything they do.
Thanks for writing this article, last time I commented on the mobile version of IE on this site people didn't seem to know what I was complaining about.Internet Explorer 9 is the biggest update I am waiting for on my HTC Trophy, once its released I will start to take web design and development on this platform more seriously.
Let's not fall for more promises until they deliver on what they have already promised. It all sounds wonderful but I'm betting it doesn't happen in 2011. It will probably happen but MS will get beaten to the market and then throw un-godly sums of money to catch up.I've been a total MS convert. I've got a WP7, Zune **** XBOX Live Gold Account, WHS V1, WinMo Phone, 2 XBOX 360s, and a WMC7 machine with a cable card tuner. All GREAT ideas that you think would go places. The potential convergence between all of those products is mind boggling. Very talented folks at MS come up with this stuff but MS management doesnt' seem to "get it". Either that or everyone in MS has compromising pictures of someone else in MS so the great ideas never go anywhere for fear of being outed.MS doesn't really get the consumer as evidenced by the apology-gate drill that they are currently going through. They can throw out great ideas to try and still the waters but how about following through.MS, quit talking about what is coming in the future until we can believe you on what you've already promised.Edit: I'm not sure why the site won't let me name the monthly Zune subcription service and instead puts in "****"?
IE9 will be great, but multitasking is by far a more important feature.The most important thing missing, though, is some kind of backup solution.
What I really, really, really, really want is the ability to organize bookmarks. Tags, labels, folders, I don't care, just anything. My phone, along with Send to WP7, would be a super companion device if I could just do that. I'm excited to see the rise of HTML5 and to see Microsoft produce a flashy browser with a lot of features, but sometimes a little attention to the basics is nice too. ;)
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