Speaking at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference today, Steven Sinofsky, president of the company's Windows and Windows Live division, has officially announced plans for the next version of IE: Internet Explorer 9. The new browser is still very early in the development process, with work beginning just three weeks ago, but early builds are already showing smoother rendering and improved performance.

To accomplish this Internet Explorer 9 will shift text and graphics rendering to the graphics chip. Sinofsky showed a few examples, including one where Bing Maps got around 14 FPS without hardware graphics acceleration, and up to 60 FPS once the feature was switched on. The technology uses DirectX's Direct2D application programming interface to boost CSS, DHTML and JavaScript performance.

A new JavaScript engine will also be built into Internet Explorer 9, as well as improved interoperability and standards support – including HTML 5 and CSS3. No estimates were given on a launch date, but considering IE8 was released just last March, it could still be a while. In the meantime, Microsoft's Channel 9 team has posted three demo videos which you can check out after the break. (Silverlight required)