At a recent demonstration of Apple’s xCode IDE, the speaker asked the audience how many people liked the Objective C language. One hand went up, with enthusiasm (not mine). The speaker muttered something about the ancient schism between Smalltalk and Simula. This made me feel old.

After installing the latest IE9 Platform Review and running some of the demos, I feel a little older. Web programming has never held much appeal for me, since I come from the world of the resource-hungry monolithic scientific app running on the desktop (or timeshare!); HTML and JavaScript were for script kiddies.

But it looks like I’ll need to climb the HTML5 / JavaScript / CSS learning curve after all. The IE9 Platform Review sports some pretty impressive features, not least of which is the GPU rendering support, and all are available in HTML5.

For example, here’s SVG-oids, a nifty implementation of the classic Asteroids upright video game.  The IE team’s Andy Zeigler whipped this up in a weekend. It runs as smooth as silk on my HP Pavilion dv8. 

SVG–oids by Andy Zeigler demonstrates SVG support in IE9.

SVG–oids by Andy Zeigler demonstrates SVG support in IE9.

 

Another fairly impressive feature is the window.msPerformance namespace, which enables gathering performance metrics about how long a webpage takes to load. It’s integrated into the DOM API, so the reporting is quite fine-grained.

window.msPerformance namespace at work in IE9, showing metrics for a webpage download.

window.msPerformance namespace at work in IE9, showing metrics for a webpage download.

 

At a recent team meeting, I was encouraged to show the Hamster Dance Revolution app, against my better judgment. But it’s pretty slick and captures the Dance Revolution ethos well.

Hamster Dance Revolution sample app for IE9.

Hamster Dance Revolution sample app for IE9.

 

Most of the demos run at a solid 60 frames per second on my lappy, so graphics performance is excellent. The obligatory video browser streams content smoothly, as does the IMDb Video Panorama app.

MSNBC video browser app running in IE9.

MSNBC video browser app running in IE9.

 

IMDb Video Panorama app running in IE9.

IMDb Video Panorama app running in IE9.

 

No plug-ins, no Windows Media Player, just HTML5. Also, no Silverlight. :\

So I’m finally convinced that web apps can rival desktop apps in richness and sophistication. I’ll be taking a crash course in JavaScript at the end of the month.

Download: IE9 Platform Review