Thankfully the Redmond giant has delivered on them all this week with the 'Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview ' - a pre-beta which aims to drag IE's performance and features up to the standards set by Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
HTLM5 is the biggest news here, since its absence up to now from what remains by far the World's most used web browser has hindered its take-up by site developers who are most concerned by compatibility. In fact, Nvidia GeForce and Ion GPU business general manger Drew Henry admitted "Internet Explorer 9 enabling GPU-accelerated HTML5 is a milestone for visual computing," adding that it "removes the glass ceiling for Web developers, enabling them to build graphically rich, high-performing Web applications."
Microsoft has been generous in its HTML5 support too since the standard still isn't fully locked down. Consequently numerous specs are covered including CSS3, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), XHTML parsing, and the video and audio tags using industry-standard H.264/MPEG4 and MP3/AAC codecs plus others.
On top of this hardware acceleration is something the alpha of Firefox 3.7 touched upon and enables site rendering to be offloaded on the GPU to boost performance. Microsoft admits speed is still behind Webkit based browsers like Chrome and Safari, but it is claimed to be faster than Firefox and considerably quicker than IE8.
On the downside, IE9 still lags a long way behind on Acid3 scores. This is a test page build by the Web Standards Project to see how well a browser complies with Internet programming standards. Chrome, Opera and Safari all passed scoring 100/100 more than 18 months ago while Firefox is in the 90s. By contrast IE9 only manages 55/100 - though that is at least up on the 20/100 scored by IE8 and 14/100 scored by IE7.
Microsoft has released an early developer's build of IE9 which can be downloaded from the link below. Beware though, this is strictly a testing only release and little more than an empty window for navigating the IE9 test site (pictured). There is no URL bar, no bookmarks, etc and a final release will not be for some time yet.
That said, the early promise and ambition of Internet Explorer 9 suggests - like Windows Phone 7 Series - that another of Microsoft's much lampooned products may soon no longer be a laughing stock...