Internet Explorer 9 Brings Apps to Microsoft Windows 7

Explorer 9

What are apps, other than tiny colorful icons that provide rich, interactive experiences on mobile devices? Think about your iPhone’s New York Times or Facebook app. They don’t feel like an installed program—they’re much less clunky—nor a website, which is anything but native. Apps are some lighter in-between. Now Microsoft is trying to bring that same concept to Windows 7.

Today, the company launched Internet Explorer 9, its latest browser iteration, which fully embraces HTML5. Boiled down, HTML5 is the next version of HTML, the backbone of Internet—that is, the predominant computer language developers use to build Web pages. It boasts incredibly strong media playback and modern Web standards. Many—including Apple—believe it could one day replace Adobe Flash. But for Microsoft, it has become a vehicle for migrating apps to the PC.

When IE9 officially launches later today, it will do so along with a slew of partners. Thanks to the power of HTML5, many of these partners from Amazon to CNN are taking advantage of IE9’s optimized platform to create immersive app-like experiences. Rather than opening IE9 and punching in an address, users may soon be pinning these "apps" to their taskbar. Redbull, for instance, will offer an interactive social media page complete with music and video. IMDB’s app will show off high-def trailers, only now possible in HTML5 with IE9. And Amazon has created a page that feels like a virtual bookstore, with access to daily deals and other features through Windows 7’s jump-lists.

"For Amazon, we wanted to re-imagine what shopping is online," says Ryan Gavin, senior director of IE9’s business and marketing. He says that the response from those who've seen the Amazon demo say it feels like an app or something on their iPad. "But it’s not. It’s a website," Gavin says. 

Redbull app

According to Gavin, Microsoft’s aim was to create a site-centric, not browser-centric, Internet Explorer that has revved-up HTML5 support. Frame rates are explosive—early comparison tests have showed big gains on Chrome and Firefox—and high-def video is handled beautifully, thanks to big tweaks to hardware acceleration.

"Websites used to have to be very flat, lowest-common denominator experiences," explains Gavin. "With HTML5, you can make as rich an experience as an app."

Think of how companies can take advantage of this new experience, especially with pinning on Windows 7. Hulu and eBay may become items on your taskbar, next to IE9 itself. For Microsoft, this was the primary focus of IE9.

eBay IE9

"The browser is the theater—not the play, so how do we let the browser get out of the way?" says Gavin. "It’s no longer a matter of opening Internet Explorer to get here or there. Now, you can just pin the app to your taskbar."

taskbar IE9

For Windows 7 users, IE9 enables a new kind of desktop client. It’s not about downloading and installing a clunky program, or launching a prehistoric HTML website. Microsoft wants its users to have pin-and-click access, a concept that could heavily benefit businesses once HTML5 becomes ubiquitous.

"The website has been promoted to a first-class citizen," Gavin says.

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  • Arosejack

    I was looking for a 'how to add apps' for IE9 and all I got was this crap about nothing...I do wish people would put relevant things on the web.  Such as if someone wants to learn to do something...cut the crap on unrelevant stuff and just get to the know how to!

  • RobHouston

    I personally enjoyed reading this. I read nothing in the headline stating tutorial. Nice cover Austin.

  • Vincent Rodriguez

    Oh WOW! Microsoft copying Opera's Widgets...whoopdeedoo! That's so last year... or was that about 3 years ago when widgets came out? Only works with Win7 w/ IE9... i'll pass.

  • Lou Zucaro

    Austin, you might want to edit this article to clarify that Microsoft launched the BETA of IE9, not the final product. It still has some time left in the oven, which will (hopefully) be used to optimize performance further and maybe even work in some more compliance niceties.

    The IE9 Beta is much better than IE8, but still gets trounced by Chrome in terms of standards compliance and JS speed.

    But, even comparing Chrome to IE8, I still won't ditch IE because some of its features, like the dockable favorites and history bar, are things that every browser should have built-in. I still can't fine one for Chrome, even with all of the add-ins. True, pages look nicer in Chrome than they do in IE8 (not much, but somewhat) but IE8 still is easier to use, in large part because of the aforementioned dockable Favorites / History bar, and a number of other features.

  • Noah Robischon

    You make a good point about clarifying that this is a beta. But who are we kidding? The Beta is still going to be used by millions of people. So aside from allowing Microsoft to say it's still adding improvements, what's the difference?

  • Lou Zucaro

    True, but the people who use it are choosing to use won't be promoted as a normal product. Microsoft doesn't work the same way Google does in that respect (for instance).

  • Keith Irwin

    You have a good point; it's pretty much the same thing. But you did say "Today, the company launched Internet Explorer 9, its latest browser iteration", and that implies that it's final. You might cause some confusion, especially since you never mention it's in beta.

  • david choi

    Kudos to Microsoft for getting press coverage for merging the favicon with 'Create Desktop Shortcut'? I think the kids call it a 'mashup' these days. Stay hip.

  • Kevin Mullett

    I am pleased to see Microsoft putting an effort into features, but as a web designer and developer I am most excited to see them take standards more seriously. Will it replace Google Chrome as my default browser? Unlikely, but we shall see.

  • Morgan Barnhart

    This is a great concept, though it seems kind of like the same concept as 'pinning' for Chrome. I usually don't like a bunch of stuff on my taskbar, but don't mind pinning it in my browser at all. This is a neat concept, though and imagine it will be popular with several people, since it'll be easily accessible.