Microsoft announced that it is shipping the final technology preview of Internet Explorer (IE) 9 -- the last pre-beta release of the company's new browser before it hits public beta testing next month.
Called the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 4, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has shipped a series of pre-beta releases of IE9 since March in an effort to get webmasters, site developers and designers to buy in early to the testing process.
Microsoft said the previous three platform previews were downloaded a total of 2.5 million times.
"Developers have had an earlier (and more frequently updated) look at the platform [and] with that early engagement, developer feedback has had a bigger impact than before," Dean Hachamovitch, general manager for IE, said in a post to Microsoft's IEBlog Wednesday.
Microsoft COO Kevin Turner told analysts gathered at the company's headquarters last week for its annual financial analysts meeting that the public beta of IE9 will begin in September.
The company released IE8 in March 2009. In that release, Microsoft attempted to bring IE into closer alignment with existing Web standards in response to repeated criticisms that earlier versions lacked such compliance.
Going forward, Microsoft has been striving to bring IE9 into even closer compliance with Web standards.
However, standards support notwithstanding, at the top of Microsoft's list is the need to increase the browser's performance.
Additionally, Platform Preview 4 now features fully hardware-accelerated HTML5 support.
"IE9 offers consistent, fully hardware-accelerated text, graphics, and media, both audio and video [which] demonstrates what HTML5 canvas can do when it's fully accelerated with the GPU," Hachamovitch added.
In the area of standards compliance, Microsoft's developers boosted IE9's performance on the Acid3 measurement test over the previous release. Platform Preview 3, which was released in late June, scored 83 out of 100 points on the test.
Microsoft said the Platform Preview 4 brings IE9's Acid3 score to 95 out of 100.
The software giant also said it has submitted an additional 519 test cases to various standards bodies bringing the total number of tests it has submitted so far to 2,138.
With IE9, Microsoft hopes to reverse the declining use of IE in recent years. In July, the company pointed to minor gains in user share for the past three months as evidence that such a turnaround has begun to occur, though whether that proves out or not remains to be seen.
As of the end of July, IE had a total market share of 60.74 percent of users, according to data from Web analytics firm Net Applications.
IE9 is due out next year.