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Originally published March 16, 2010 at 7:58 PM | Page modified March 17, 2010 at 6:53 PM

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Microsoft "all in" on Internet Explorer 9 supporting HTML5

Microsoft is building a new version of Internet Explorer that will support the HTML5 standard, opening the gates for developers to create...

Seattle Times technology reporter

LAS VEGAS — Microsoft is building a new version of Internet Explorer that will support the HTML5 standard, opening the gates for developers to create more interactive Web sites.

The company made the announcement Tuesday at its MIX conference for Web developers, saying a platform preview for Internet Explorer 9 is ready for developers to kick the tires.

"We're all in" for HTML5, said Windows division President Steve Sinofsky, echoing Steve Ballmer's comment last week that Microsoft is "all in" for cloud computing.

Developers have been urging Microsoft to support HTML5 as a standard, allowing them to build a site once for multiple browsers.

Microsoft has the majority of the browser market with Internet Explorer, followed by Firefox made by Mozilla. Smaller players include Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Opera. According to research firm Net Market Share, Internet Explorer has 62 percent of the browser market, and Firefox has 24 percent.

A coalition of browser makers, the World Wide Web Cornsortium, is working on establishing HTML5.

"We are really happy to see Microsoft catching up on standards and implementing things developers really like to use," said Chris Blizzard, director of evangelism at Mozilla, which has been building HTML5 standards into Firefox over several versions.

"We've been frustrated that it's taken a long time" for Microsoft, Blizzard said. "But we're happy to see they're doing it."

Blizzard said Microsoft's platform preview does not include some key HTML5 features, such as support for playing video and audio without a plug-in and a drawing feature called Canvas.

Microsoft said it is committed to providing software upgrades to Internet Explorer 9 every eight weeks. It also said it would not be developing a version of IE9 for Windows XP computers.

HTML5 is designed to enable more interactive Web sites that could potentially run faster and more reliably. Examples of richer features include the ability to move files, such as photos, between the operating system and the browser; create animation, such as rotating logos; and develop online games. HTML5 has the potential to break down part of the wall between the browser and the rest of the computer environment.

Sinofsky joined Microsoft general manager Dean Hachamovitch on stage to demonstrate the animation developers can build in the coming version of Internet Explorer.

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Clippy, the talking paper clip from Office, was briefly resurrected in the demo to show graphics editing. His thought bubble read: "Hi Dean, Remember me? Would you like some help with your demo?"

Sinofsky and Hachamovitch played asteroids on stage to show the potential for games in the browser.

One of the challenges Microsoft faces is that HTML5 would compete with Silverlight, Microsoft's Web software for video and animation online.

"When it gets approved, it can replace [Adobe] Flash or Silverlight," said Matt Rosoff, analyst at Kirkland-based independent research firm Directions on Microsoft. "Silverlight reverses HTML5."

For now, Microsoft is pushing both at developers at the conference in Las Vegas.

Here are some other highlights from MIX:

• Microsoft principal researcher Bill Buxton was a crowd favorite with his Tuesday keynote speech on design focused on the person. A musician by training, Buxton played a digital sax on stage, then showed off Project Gustav, software an artist used on stage to create a painting of Degas-like ballerinas.

In a later session, Buxton showed photos of the Seattle Public Central Library.

"A building of this size is like a big hunk of code," he said. He called the triangle BXT — business, experience, technology — and said the team behind Windows Phone 7 Series was one of the first major product teams to adopt the approach.

• The blue used in Bing is worth $80 million. Paul Rey, user-experience manager for Bing, said in a design session that his team intensively researched what kind of blue to use for search results.

Based on user feedback, the team estimated the best blue color — shade of cornflower with undertones of purple — could generate $80 million to $90 million more in ad sales.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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