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IE's Share Slips Further as Browser Updates Loom

Call them the M & Ms -- Microsoft and Mozilla, that is. Both are readying major new versions of their browsers --Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 -- for release in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, Firefox continues to usurp IE's market share, according to two major Web analytics firms, albeit slowly. In fact, according to one study, the Market Share report from Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications, IE's global share in September fell to 82.1 percent, versus a rise to 12.46 percent for Firefox.

The other firm, OneStat.com of Amsterdam, reported IE with a global share in September of 85.85 percent, with Firefox coming in second with 11.49 percent. Apple's Safari browser came in third in both surveys -- 3.53 percent for Net Applications and 1.61 percent for OneStat.com.

By comparison, in April 2005, OneStat.com measured IE's global share at 87.28 percent with Firefox at 8.45 percent.  

The question, longer term, is whether IE7 will win back any of those defectors. It is set to come out on Vista next month for volume customers and early next year for consumers. Both are poised for perhaps the biggest battle royal for browser share since Netscape.

Microsoft shipped IE6 in August 2001 and other than a mostly security-oriented service pack, has not significantly updated it in more than five years. In contrast, Mozilla only shipped version 1 of Firefox two years ago, with a 1.5 update released last November.

While long-neglected IE users are cautiously optimistic, critics decry IE7 as merely a catch-up update -- mostly featuring tabbed browsing, a feature already in Firefox, and an integrated search window.

Mozilla shipped Firefox 2.0 Release Candidate 2 last week on October 6, and its release appears imminent. Microsoft plans to ship IE7 for Windows XP this month.

Coincidentally, a posting on Microsoft's IEBlog on October 6 -- the same day that Firefox 2.0 RC2 shipped -- was headlined "IE7 Is Coming This Month...Are you Ready?"

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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