The next edition of Internet Explorer has been confirmed as having a neat trick up its sleeve to help in the speed stakes: GPU acceleration.

As reported over on ExtremeTech, Internet Explorer 9 - which is currently not much more than a tweaked rendering engine on top of Internet Explorer 8 - looks to bring IE out of the doldrums in benchmarks and put it back at the top of the tree once more, thanks to the wonders of general purpose GPU computing.

The GPGPU engine allows those with compatible graphics cards - anything recent from Nvidia or ATI should suffice - to offload graphics rendering operations on to the graphics card, freeing up the CPU to deal with back-end stuff such as JavaScript - an area in which Internet Explorer has always been laggardly.

Speaking of which, the Internet Explorer team is busily working on JavaScript performance, too: by taking advantage of dual- and quad-core processors by compiling the code on one core and running it on another, IE9 promises a significant performance boost. Demonstrating the difference the two technologies can make once combined, principle program manager Jason Weber demonstrated a JavaScript 3D engine that caused IE8 to cry after just a dozen instances - but IE9 carried on at full speed with 256 separate icons.

If the idea of offloading some tasks to the GPU sounds familiar, then you're probably thinking about work carried out to introduce the same technology into the popular Firefox browser by the Mozilla Foundation. While Microsoft was the first to announce GPGPU acceleration in its browser back in November, Firefox beat IE to the punch in having the first available test version: now it just remains to see which of the companies can get a fully supported version out of the door first.

Sadly for those plugging away on Windows XP, Microsoft has confirmed that Internet Explorer 9 - with all its multi-core and GPGPU goodness - will be limited to Vista, Windows 7, and the company's server products.

If you're curious to give it a go - and you're running Windows Vista with Service Pack 2 or newer - then you can download the platform preview directly from the Test Drive website.

Do you believe that making everyday programs like the web browser take advantage of the ultra-powerful graphics cards and multi-core processors most of us have sat in our machines is the way forward, or is there more Microsoft could be doing in code efficiency before worrying about taking over more hardware? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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