Microsoft on Wednesday delivered the second developer-oriented preview release of its Internet Explorer (IE) 9 web browser, fulfilling an earlier promise to deliver updates to the technology on a regular schedule. The IE 9 Platform Preview 2 is a bare-bones application that provides no hint about the future UI, but it provides developers with an updated peek at the product's hardware acceleration and rendering capabilities.

"Today’s release builds on the first Platform Preview, delivering improvements to IE 9's performance, support for standards, and hardware acceleration of HTML5," Microsoft General Manager Dean Hachamovitch wrote in a blog post announcing the release. "Developers should expect much more from browsers in order to deliver the graphically rich, interactive applications that HTML5 will enable. In IE9, our goal is to provide professional-grade, modern HTML5 support on top of modern hardware through Windows."

With IE 9, Microsoft is seeking to not only reverse its browser's poor support for web standards but to engage the broader web development community, including other browser makers, to come up with new standards that define how websites will render in browsers. Using the mantra "same markup," Microsoft seeks to ensure that the same underlying HTML and CSS code will render identically in every browser, so that users and developers will have better experiences. And that will provide browser makers with an incentive to compete in other areas.

To achieve this goal, Microsoft has provided over 7,000 new compliance tests to the W3C web standards body. But it's also working to bolster its scores on today's less-than-helpful tests, like the pointless ACID3 test that open-source advocates are so fond of, and the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark test. IE 9 PP2 scores significantly better on both than did the first IE 9 preview.

Microsoft also recently announced its intention to support HTML 5-based H.264 video in IE 9, meaning that such video will play in the browser without a plugin. However, unlike Apple, Microsoft also supports Adobe Flash (which, among other things, also provides video playback) and will do so going forward.

The first IE 9 platform preview was downloaded over one million times, Microsoft says, and the final product will ship for both Windows 7 and Vista. Microsoft has yet to provide any information about the delivery schedule, however, and hasn't yet announced a beta version that will be of interest to the general public.

Developers interested in testing the new IE 9 Platform Preview 2 release can visit the Internet Explorer 9 Test Drive site, which also includes a number of interesting performance, HTML 5, and graphics demos. Not surprisingly, these demos make IE 9 look great, and the competition look bad.