Opera 12 to get graphics-hardware boost

Hardware acceleration will come to a new version of Opera set to arrive by the end of the year--and it'll work on Windows XP.

Opera showed this WebGL demonstration of a walking 3D figure at its Up North Web event. Opera 12 will support the WebGL technology for 3D graphics among other hardware-accelerated features.
Opera showed this WebGL demonstration of a walking 3D figure at its Up North Web event. Opera 12 will support the WebGL technology for 3D graphics among other hardware-accelerated features. Stephen Shankland/CNET

OSLO--The next version of Opera Software's browser will get a major graphics-hardware boost, an approach that's been spreading to browsers keen to increase battery life, improve performance, and enable new features.

"Everything is accelerated," said Jan Standal, Opera's vice president of desktop products, in an interview today at the company's Up North Web press event here about Opera 12. "The whole user interface."

Specifically, that means hardware acceleration for Cascading Style Sheets transitions and animations, for Canvas 2D drawing, and for text, he said. And Opera 12 gets support for the WebGL 3D graphics technology--also hardware-acclerated.

The shift overall will lead to a more lively Web, predicted Haakon Wium Lie, Opera's chief technology officer and the founder of CSS. "With 3D, with the hardware acceleration, we will welcome a whole range of new types of content," he said. "Games, I think, will be foremost there."

Christian Krogh, Opera's chief development officer
Christian Krogh, Opera's chief development officer Stephen Shankland/CNET

An alpha version of Opera 12 is due to arrive Thursday. And Christian Krogh, Opera's chief development officer, said the final version should be released later this year.

Microsoft catalyzed the current hardware acceleration push for browsers with IE9, but that browser requires Windows Vista or Windows 7. Opera hopes to reach much farther, including other operating systems and Windows XP, Standal said.

WebGL, initially developed by Mozilla and the Khronos Group standards organization, has attracted support among all major browser makers except Microsoft. That undermines the utility of the technology for game developers who might otherwise build Web-based apps.

One of those developers is Rovio Mobile of Angry Birds fame. Saara Bergstrom, head of consumer engagement and social marketing, though, believes Microsoft will come around, which would help with the company's effort to reach all screens possible.

"WebGL is missing to some extent. I'm pretty sure they will come aboard with WebGL in the future as well," Bergstrom said. But there are other ways to reach IE, too: "Flash is the other important part," she said. Last week, Rovio showed a forthcoming version of Angry Birds that runs on Adobe Systems' new Flash Player 11, which has its own hardware-accelerated 3D abilities.

Lie said Microsoft has turned over a new leaf when it comes to Web standards support.

"As they saw their position weaken, they've come much more on board with standards," Lie said. "I don't think they have an Interest in not doing WebGL. I think they will come on board."

Also in the Opera 12 is a new HTML5 parser, a feature that will bring Opera into line with the new Web standard for processing the code that makes up Web pages. The result should be better compatibility, so Web pages viewed with one browser look the same as when viewed with another.

In addition, Opera 12 will get a revamped JavaScript engine for running the software that powers Web applications, Krogh said.

Opera showed this demonstration of global Opera browser activity at its Up North Web event.
Opera showed this demonstration of global Opera browser activity at its Up North Web event. The demo used OpenGL, a 3D graphics language that's the basis of WebGL. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Updated 3:03 a.m. PT with comments about WebGL and Microsoft. Updated at 5:31 a.m. PT to correct that the globe picture was rendered with OpenGL.

 

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