New Internet Explorer Fails To Shore Up MS Browser Share

Online data tracker Net Applications published data yesterday that shows IE9 coming on strong, but not necessarily the way Microsoft would like. Adoption trends show that much of IE9's gain was offset by fewer people using Internet Explorer 8. This implies that while customers see the advantages of IE9, they're not turning to Microsoft to provide them with a high-end product.

 Microsoft has seen the same reports as everyone else, but prefers a different focus. The company claims that Windows 7 and IE9 fit together like peanut butter and chocolate. A recent blog post by Ryan Gavin repeatedly emphasizes how the IE9 development team "built IE9 to help developers unleash faster and richer web experiences that can take full advantage of the capabilities of Windows 7 and modern PC hardware." Microsoft continues to do its best to pry people off of IE6/IE7; usage of these browsers fell 0.7 percent in April.

Browser share as reported by Net Applications

There's nothing wrong with IE9—as we covered previously, it does a lot of things right. It's Microsoft's best browser to date, and it offers a plethora of modern features. Unfortunately, it lacks a killer feature or attention-grabber. Based on the context in which IE9 is often discussed, a user might conclude that the program's must-have option is that it isn't Internet Explorer 6. As important as it is to get users off of that decrepit browser, Microsoft's own zeal to do so may have worked against IE9's marketing.

Microsoft's attempt to portray IE9 as the only 'real' web browser capable of taking full advantage of Direct2D GPU acceleration has fallen on deaf ears. While it remains true that this type of acceleration requires a more advanced GUI than Windows XP, the other browser developers didn't sacrifice top-end performance for low-end compatibility. There's still no way to use hardware acceleration in Windows XP via Direct2D/DirectWrite.

It's possible that a Windows XP-flavored version of Internet Explorer 9 would win back some market share for MS, but it's not guaranteed. Windows 7 adoption continues apace, with Windows XP approaching end-of-life. Porting IE9 backwards would've left MS no choice but to continue supported an OS that's nearly ten years old. It's possible that the Win 7 / IE8 transitions currently occurring are actually occluding our ability to measure how many people are switching from IE8 to IE9.

Microsoft is plunging ahead nonetheless. Early builds of Internet Explorer 10 have already been demo'd and offered for preview, while the company continues to pour money into its online business segment (and therefore into Bing).  Bing's 30 percent market share sounds good on paper, but not when compared to the company's losses in that division. Despite these facts, MS continues to carry the weight; we expect this to continue well into the future. Given the interest in Windows 8, Redmond may be hoping it can regain ground in the ARM market over the long term, even if its share in x86 browsers has slipped.