Anyone who has used a handset running Windows Mobile over the past few years, whether Smartphone or Pocket PC Edition, will know the wretched horror that is Pocket IE. Seemingly designed by someone who learnt about the features of the internet via a brief telegram, it suffered on so many counts that it's probably easier to list the positives (i.e. it's free) than the drawbacks. Thankfully Microsoft has had enough of watching any serious user wander off to Opera, NetFront or any of the few other alternatives; it's called DeepFish, and there's a preview available today.
So what's new? Well, the headline grabbing features are the "view port" - which is basically a thumbnail preview showing where you've scrolled to on the full page - and their way of rendering a webpage for the small screen. Basically a Microsoft proxy server sits in-between you and the internet-proper, taking an instant screenshot when you access a page and serving that image up to you for you to zoom in on and pan around.
Long Zheng over at istartedsomething has some qualms about it, and having read his explanation I'm feeling similarly concerned. His fear is privacy - or lack of it - what with a copy of every page you visit potentially being archived on Microsoft's servers, just waiting for an FBI search warrant to open up your history up to their curious eyes.
Kunjal Kundaje at e-piphany concentrates on the positives of the new rendering technology, however, producing the above image (click to enlarge) which shows, top-left, Pocket IE's attempts at displaying the NY Times page, while the other three are DeepFish's far better effort. Panning the zoom-box around the screenshot then opens up a close-up version with clickable links. Kunjal also points to this flash video of the browser in action.
Not even a beta yet, it looks like the preview program is full and DeepFish is no longer available to download. Initial feedback from those quick enough to grab it, however, seems to be a big thumbs-up, for the technology at least, while I'm sure the potential privacy issues will be a great big discussion topic when the software begins to filter out into the mainstream.