Microsoft's latest browser is here! Well, in beta form, at least. The Internet Explorer 9 beta popped up on beautyoftheweb.com earlier today, giving users of Windows 7 and Vista a chance to sample Microsoft's revamped (and hardware-accelerated) rendering engine and the snazzy new UI that goes with it.
A word of warning if you're planning to grab this thing: the installer will force you to restart Windows... and it'll overwrite the previous version of IE. Don't go thinking you can play with the beta while keeping IE8 around for real work on the same machine.
Microsoft has a lengthy expose on some of the new features on the official IE blog, and beautyoftheweb.com provides a more dumbed-down overview. In a nutshell, though, the IE9 beta looks less like Homer Simpson's car and more like a luxury sedan—a nice change of pace compared to IE8.
I've gotta say, I quite like this new browser. It's fast, looks clean, and seems to get in the way less than previous IE releases. Putting the address bar and tabs on the same line doesn't seem like a half-way bad idea, either, although it could irritate folks who like to load the entire Internet in every browser session. My only real gripe lies with the hardware acceleration, which seems to make ClearType font rendering look off compared to other apps.