All posts tagged ‘Microsoft’

Microsoft Adds H.264 Video Support to Firefox

Thanks to licensing issues and exorbitant fees, Mozilla doesn’t support the H.264 video codec in Firefox, but Microsoft (yes, Microsoft) is aiming to change that.

Microsoft has created a Firefox plug-in that will tap into Windows 7′s native H.264 support, allowing Firefox 3.6 and the 4.0 betas to play H.264 encoded video.

If you’d like to give it a try, you can download a copy of the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in from Microsoft’s Interoperability Labs.

The HTML5 video tag promises to eliminate the need for third-party plugins like Flash or QuickTime. Sadly, it’s a long way from “promises” to “delivers.” While HTML5 offers a video tag for authors to easily add videos to their webpages, it’s up to the browser to actually play that video. And that’s where the problem arises — what video codec should the browser use?

Apple is standing firm behind the H.264 video codec. But H.264 has licensing requirements, fees and is not free in any sense of the word. Mozilla Firefox supports Ogg Theora and WebM, both of which are open and free. Google’s Chrome supports all three codecs. Opera supports Ogg Theora and WebM. Microsoft has decided to support H.264 and WebM in IE9.

In short, varying codec support across browsers has made native HTML5 video a mess.

Microsoft’s new add-on brings support for H.264 to Firefox whether Mozilla wants it or not. The add-on parses HTML5 pages and replaces video tags with a call to the Windows Media Player plug-in. Unfortunately it’s not perfect. To deal with the different codec support in each browser, many sites use JavaScript to determine the browser’s codec support before presenting a video. If that’s the case, the new add-on won’t work because the detection code won’t see the H.264 support (the H.264 support is an add-on, not a native part of Firefox).

Ironically, native web video isn’t supported at all in Microsoft’s own browsers, regardless of the codec used (IE9 will introduce support for HTML5 video when it is released next year). Third-party developers have already created an experimental IE add-on to help current versions of IE get in on the native web video fun.

Microsoft’s add-on is far from ideal, but if you’ve been frustrated by Firefox’s lack of H.264 support, it does offer a partial solution. Hopefully, in the long run, browsers will standardize around WebM, which seems to enjoy the most widespread support (Apple’s Safari is current only browser that hasn’t pledged WebM support), but if that doesn’t happen solutions like this one may become even more common.

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File Under: Browsers

New IE9 Preview Arrives, Now With More JavaScript Power

Internet Explorer 9 Beta on the Windows 7 desktop

Microsoft pushed out another preview release of Internet Explorer 9 Wednesday. This is not a new beta release — we’re still months away from the official release of Internet Explorer 9 — but we’re definitely approaching the finish line.

Wednesday’s release, dubbed Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 7 (whew) includes a big performance boost with a newly revamped JavaScript engine inside of it.

The last preview release of IE9, which only arrived a few weeks ago, saw increased support for web standards. But Microsoft made it clear to us during a phone briefing that Wednesday’s release is all about speed and performance.

To that point, PP7 contains an updated version of the Chakra JavaScript engine. This new engine for IE9 was first introduced at Microsoft’s PDC developer event in November 2009. During the last year, the company has been improving Chakra to the point where it’s now scoring over 300 percent higher on the WebKit SunSpider benchmark than it was at launch.

Microsoft’s Ryan Gavin from the IE team says the new release scores 234.6 ms on SunSpider’s JavaScript execution performance test. Read more about the testing stuff on the IE Blog.

While some browsers are certainly faster than others, the major browser vendors continue to tweak their internal workings and make small improvements to speed. JavaScript performance is particularly important, since modern web applications like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter rely heavily on scripted actions. A faster browser means a snappier web app. Just last week, Mozilla released a new beta of Firefox 4 that included revamped code for its JägerMonkey and TraceMonkey JavaScript engines.

You can download this early version of the next IE browser directly from Microsoft. It’s available for PCs running Windows 7 and Vista. Also, this platform preview can be installed alongside IE9 Beta or IE8 with no problems.

Once you grab it, head over to the company’s demo playground and put the new browser through the paces. Be sure to report your results in the comments.

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File Under: Browsers, HTML5

IE9 Leads Pack in HTML5 Support? Not Exactly

Internet Explorer 9 Beta on the Windows 7 desktop

The standards body that oversees HTML5 has released the results of its first tests designed to measure the level of HTML5 support in web browsers. The results, surprisingly, put Internet Explorer 9 ahead of Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari.

Microsoft’s IE9 team deserves some major credit for finally building a browser with strong support for web standards. However, despite the impressive showing in the Worldwide Web Consortium’s (W3C) tests, it would be pure fiction to suggest that IE9 is that far ahead of its competitors when it comes to supporting HTML5, CSS 3 and other components of the new web.

The reason IE9 tops the W3C’s list is that the test looks at only a fraction of the HTML5 spec. In other words, the test is very limited. Even better, it’s limited to things IE9 is good at.

The W3C test looks at seven elements of HTML5: attributes, audio, video, Canvas, getElementsByClassName, foreigncontent, and XHTML5. While the audio, video and Canvas tags are perhaps the most widely used components in HTML5, that list is a long way from covering the entire HTML5 specification.

Run IE9 against other aspects of HTML5 and the browser would be decidedly behind its competitors. IE9 lacks support for Web Workers, drag-and-drop features, SVG animations and the File API, all of which are vital components for building useful web applications, and all of which enjoy considerable support in other browsers.

IE 9 has some support for CSS 3, but it lags behind other browsers, and it can’t handle much of SVG 1.1. From a web developer’s viewpoint, that means IE9 will load your Canvas tags, but if you’re using transforms or other animations based on CSS 3 tools, IE 9 users won’t see what you can show to Firefox, Chrome, Opera or Safari users.

As an aside, running IE9 through the decidedly less formal (but still informative) HTML5Test site, the browser doesn’t perform as well as the competition. It scores 90 out of 300 points. Google Chrome scores 231 points and Safari 5 scores 208 points. Firefox 4 Beta 8 slots in at 217 points. The HTML5Test site ranks browsers based not only on W3C-approved components of HTML5, but also some experimental stuff, and some components that aren’t in the spec at all but are widely considered important tools for building more powerful HTML5 web applications, like Geolocation.

Perhaps what’s most curious about the areas IE9 does look good — the HTML5 Canvas, audio and video tags — is that they’re are all areas where Microsoft has previously touted its Silverlight platform as the ideal solution. With IE9, Microsoft is clearly backing away — at least for now — from its proprietary platform and moving toward the open web for these applications.

Internet Explorer 9 may not be perfect when it comes to HTML5 — no browser is — but at least it’s making huge strides over its predecessors. Perhaps the development would be more encouraging if its predecessors weren’t so firmly entrenched in the dark ages of the early web.

The latest version of Microsoft’s browser is expected to arrive in its final form some time during 2011. It is currently in beta release, and if you’re running Windows 7 or Vista, you can download it now.

This post was updated to reflect Firefox 4 beta 8′s score at HTML5Test instead of beta 7 [thanks, David].

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File Under: Browsers

Microsoft Drops a New IE9 Preview, Boosts CSS Support

Internet Explorer 9 Beta on the Windows 7 desktop

We’re still months away from the official release of Internet Explorer 9 — it’s likely due some time during the first half of 2011 — but Microsoft continues to roll new features and additional web standards support into its next-gen browser.

The company put out a sixth pre-release “platform preview” of IE9 Thursday. It includes support for CSS3′s 2D transforms. There are also improvements to hardware acceleration, font rendering, and the browser’s JavaScript engine. You can read about these enhancements in depth on the official IE Blog.

Microsoft released the first beta of Internet Explorer 9 in September. But this new release is not a second beta, it’s the sixth platform preview. A bit confusing, sure. But beta releases are considered to be almost totally stable and are intended for a more general audience. Platform previews are on the bleeding edge, and may contain code that isn’t as thoroughly tested. So, this release is primarily aimed at developers.

IE9 Beta is doing spectacularly well, however — Microsoft says its beta release has been downloaded ten million times since its release six weeks ago. It has also been receiving kudos for its expanded support of web standards like HTML5, CSS 3 and WOFF.

Here’s a video showing off the new stuff in IE9 platform preview 6:

If you watch the video and read the post on the IE Blog, you’ll notice a lot of emphasis on “full hardware acceleration” in IE9, and how other browsers like Chrome and Firefox can’t perform as well as IE9 because they only offer “partial” hardware acceleration. In fact, all browsers have access to the same Windows APIs that enable off-loading work to the PC’s graphics processor when needed to speed up 2D and 3D animation rendering. This has been an issue of some debate over the past two months, with Microsoft and Mozilla going toe-to-toe over the issue.

If you want to test the new IE9 platform preview 6, it’s available for Windows 7 and Vista only. Microsoft also released some new tests at the ietestdrive site — run all your browsers through them.

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File Under: HTML5, Software

Export Adobe Illustrator Drawings and Animations to HTML5

There’s a new conversion tool for fans of Adobe’s popular Illustrator desktop publishing app that lets developers export their vector drawings and animations as HTML5 code that runs natively in the latest web browsers.

The new tool is called Ai>Canvas, and it does exactly what the name implies. You can take any vector illustrations you’ve made in Adobe Illustrator and export them as 2D graphics that can be drawn on web pages using the HTML5 Canvas element. It can even animate your drawings.

The plug-in can handle gradients and transparencies, complex pattern fills, drop shadows, complex line styles and text, exporting everything as HTML5 Canvas code. In cases where your illustration contains something that can’t be done in Canvas (like an opacity mask) the plug-in rasterizes that bit and positions it properly.

The plug-in also supports commands for animation. You can add rotation, object scaling, fades, and movement along a path. All of your parameters are defined inside Illustrator, but when you export to HTML5, you can tweak the resulting web code to fine-tune the results. You can also add interactions, like sounds, or click events.

The plug-in works in Illustrator for Creative Suite versions 5, 4 and 3. There are versions for Windows and Mac OS X.

Oddly, it doesn’t come directly from Adobe. It’s a product of Microsoft’s Mix Labs, an initiative the company has set up to experiment with open web technologies. Microsoft has taken a larger interest in open web standards ever since work began on building in support for HTML5 and advanced web technologies into Internet Explorer. The next version, IE9, is already in beta, with the final version due some time next year.

The creator of the plug-in, Microsoft developer and platform evangelist Mike Swanson, is also the author of the XAML exporter for Illustrator. He got interested in HTML5 and Canvas after a passionate conversation about the technology with his co-worker, Thomas Lewis. You can read the whole story — and see some of his working examples and test files — on Swanson’s blog. Lewis has written his own post, as well.

Adobe Labs recently released an SVG pack for Illustrator which can export drawings as SVG that run in browsers that support the format. But this new Ai>Canvas exporter uses HTML5 Canvas, which is quickly becoming widely adopted by developers working on games and virtual worlds that run in the browser. Check out the Asteroids and Rumpetroll experiments for some cool Canvas work.

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