CIO — The next iteration of the Internet Explorer browser, IE9, is only in its barebones “Platform Preview” state, but Microsoft (MSFT) is beating the big drum early and giving developers more time to test the preview for speed, compatibility and performance.

As more business applications go online, browser performance and reliability are high on the minds of IT managers. Over the past year, Internet Explorer has lost market share by 8 percentage points while browsers Firefox, Chrome and Safari have all gained share, according to Web analytics company Net Applications.

Microsoft aims to win users back to IE9 with two main enhancements: HTML5 support and a faster new JavaScript engine called “Chakra”, says Internet Explorer GM Dean Hachamovitch.

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“IE9 will make HTML5 apps better by taking advantage of PC hardware through Vista and Windows 7,” says Hachamovitch.

By PC hardware, Hachamovitch is referring to GPUs (graphical processing units), which support a PC's graphical elements like video editing and gaming. In a demo during his MIX10 keynote speech in mid-March, Hachamovitch compared an HD HTML5 video playing in the IE9 Platform Preview on a Windows 7 netbook to the same HD HTML5 video playing in a Chrome browser.

A comparison of HD HTML5 video in Google's (GOOG) Chrome browser to the same video in the IE9 “Platform Preview.”

The Chrome video was choppy with frames dropping out and used the full CPU (central processing unit), whereas the IE9 video was smooth, using much less of the CPU.

Hachamovitch has been adamant that the bedrock for IE9 is GPU-powered HTML5, which is the most advanced version of HTML (hypertext markup language), the language that runs all Web pages. HTML5 uses the computer's GPU to provide in-browser support for richer video, audio and graphics, thereby taking the burden off the CPU and allowing the computer to run faster. The ultimate promise of HTML5 is that it will end the reliance on downloaded proprietary plug-ins like Adobe (ADBE) Flash.

With IE9, Microsoft also aims to catch up with and surpass competitors Firefox, Chrome and Safari in terms of HTML5 support and vows to be more standards-compliant with the W3C, the international standards organization for the World Wide Web.