Browsers pick up the pace (week in review)

Google releases Chrome 10, Microsoft says it will launch IE9 at South by Southwest, and Firefox 4 is a step closer to it's official release. Also: yes, the iPad2 cometh.

It might seem like the tech news this week has been all about the new iPad, but speedier browser versions grabbed some big headlines as well.

Google on Tuesday released Chrome 10 , endowing its browser with faster JavaScript, password synchronization, and a revamped preferences system. Chrome is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Google announced Chrome 10's stable release on its blog but refrained from mentioning its product number. That's in line with the company's effort to focus on features rather than version numbers, which it calls mere milestones. Google tries to get new versions into users' hands as rapidly as possible and currently passes a new milestone about once every six weeks.

Chrome 10 comes with the "Crankshaft" version of the V8 browser engine that Google pegs as 66 percent faster than the unnamed version in Chrome 9 as measured with Google's V8 Benchmark suite. That's a major speed boost, but be aware there are many other attributes of browser performance, and one of the biggest--hardware acceleration--will hit prime time with the imminent release of Mozilla's Firefox 4 and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9.

Speaking of IE9, Microsoft will be formally launching the next version of its browser at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival on Monday--an interesting place to launch, given that the Austin, Texas, geek fest is packed full of the hordes who have long since ditched Internet Explorer for the decidedly hipper pastures of Firefox, Safari, or Chrome.

Among the new features in IE9 is a refreshed look with the browser taking up less space than previous versions of IE, as well as a way to pin sites to the Windows task bar. Sites can then program their pages to act more like desktop applications with things like notifications, and the Windows 7 Jump List feature, which can hop users to specific parts of a Web page.

IE9 also brings performance improvements, including faster start times and a new JavaScript engine called Chakra that Microsoft has proven to be faster at the WebKit SunSpider benchmark test than competitors. On the security side, IE9 also adds support for "do not track" through lists that users can subscribe to, as well as a way to filter ActiveX content from pages.

Meanwhile, Mozilla updated the Firefox 4 beta to release candidate status, meaning that the features are locked, and barring the discovery of any major bugs, this version is likely to become the browser's official release. Available to download for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Firefox 4 release candidate 1 contains no major bug fixes, and instead offers a series of stability, compatibility, and performance tweaks.

<b>Major quakes hit Japan; tsunami warning for U.S.

An 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Japan early Friday, generating a series of tsunamis along the northeast coast and causing major damage and widespread panic.
•  Japan reels from massive earthquake (roundup)
•  Aftermath of Japan's earthquake (photos)
•  Japanese electronics firms grapple with quake's effects

iPad launch 2.0: What's different this time?

With the iPad 2 launching today, we take a look at how both Apple's retail strategy and the tablet landscape differ from the launch of the first-generation iPad.
•  Live from NYC, SF: iPad 2 launch
•  Apple iPad 2 online sales will start in wee hours
•  Developers plan for iPad 2 graphics boost
•  Tablets are the 'post-PC era'? I beg to differ
•  How to resist your iPad 2 craving
•  Laptops play catch up to the iPad, Xoom
•  Analyst: iPad 2 could lead to glut of rival tablets
•  IDC: Apple will continue to dominate tablet market

<b>iOS 4.3 arrives ahead of schedule

The latest version of Apple's iOS has been released ahead of schedule. Some of the new features include a Wi-Fi hot spot for GSM iPhone users and improved JavaScript performance in Safari.
•  New sports channels signal shift in Apple TV
•  iOS 4.3 code hints at A5 processor in next iPhone
•  Safari 5.0.4 update addresses plug-in compatibility, more

<b>HP called out for director selection improprieties

A shareholder advisory group says Hewlett-Packard's board violated its own rules by allowing CEO Leo Apotheker to play a role in nominating new slate of directors.
&#149;&nbsp; HP CEO: WebOS on all our PCs in 2012

Netflix spooks Hollywood more than ever

The name of the game in Hollywood right now is to spark ownership of digital movies, and Netflix's streaming rental service undermines that strategy. Moreover, Netflix may be hurting the major studios in ways that few expected.
•  Warner Bros. to deliver movies on Facebook

Lost innocence for start-ups at a flashier SXSWi?

Annual geek-culture confab has gotten so big that wide-eyed young start-ups thinking it's their ticket to fame may find it's like hoping to get a record deal by showing up at Coachella with a guitar.
•  Hitting the road for SXSW with geek entrepreneurs
•  The 'buspreneurs' roll south toward SXSWi
•  Rolling with the Startup Bus (photos)
•  Onboard the Startup Bus, let's bounce

Microsoft's mobile fortunes tied to app developers

The success of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform is in the hands of developers, who are starting to port mobile apps to the new operating system.
• 10 million a magic number for Microsoft's Kinect

Laying the blueprint for Sony's future

Exec shakeup points the way for Kaz Hirai to succeed Howard Stringer as CEO, as Stringer moves to secure his legacy and keep momentum going toward the convergence of entertainment and devices.

Also of note
•  Report: Angry Birds coming to Facebook in May
•  AOL confirms layoffs, changes in editorial focus
•  Adobe proposes standard for magazine-like Web
•  China-related DoS attack takes down Codero-hosted Web sites
•  Shuttle Discovery bids space station final farewell
•  Clearwire CEO William Morrow resigns

 

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