Despite 2.3 Million Downloads IE9 Still Faces Challenges


Microsoft claims massive interest in Internet Explorer 9 but long-term dominance challenges lie ahead

Microsoft claims more than 2.35 million downloads of Internet Explorer 9 in the new browser’s first 24 hours of release.

“That is over 27 downloads every second,” Ryan Gavin, senior director for Internet Explorer, wrote in a March 16 posting on The Windows Blog, “or over 240 downloads every nine seconds.” The number of IE9 downloads in 24 hours, apparently, is double that of the IE9 Beta and “four times that of the IE9 RC”.

Minimalist User Interface

In its bid to compete against Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and other next-stage browsers, Microsoft not only focused on making IE9 speedy and secure, but also stripped down the actual browser interface to a translucent frame with a few minimalist buttons – the better, apparently, to bring the Web experience front and centre.

With the exception of Windows Phone 7, for which consumer sales-figures remain scarce, Microsoft has a habit of touting the early adoption rates of its various products. Considering the company’s massive footprint across a broad swath of devices and services, the fact that a new release would attract millions of downloads seems unsurprising; the bigger question is whether that early momentum can be maintained in the longer-term.

For Microsoft, that is a key question. According to New Applications, the Internet Explorer franchise’s share of the browser market stands at 56.77 percent, followed by Firefox at 21.74 percent, Google Chrome at 10.93 percent and Safari at 6.36 percent. While that market share represents a comfortable lead over its rivals, it also represents a significant decline from the 68.46 percent that Internet Explorer held in March 2009.

In its bid to halt and reverse that erosion, Microsoft faces two challenges. The first is persuading current Internet Explorer users to upgrade to the latest Microsoft browser, as opposed to leaping to a competing product. As part of that effort, Microsoft recently launched a Website, “The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown,” designed to draw users of that antiquated (and increasingly unsecure) browser to a newer version.

The second centres on IE9’s incompatibility with Windows XP, another legacy product Microsoft wants users to mothball in favour of Windows 7. Despite the company’s efforts on that front, and Windows 7’s healthy sell-through rate, some 55.09 percent of PCs continue to run XP. That effectively shuts off IE9 from a substantial portion of personal computers that are nonetheless still capable of running Firefox and Chrome.

IE9 leverages Windows 7 for some of its most eye-popping features, including the ability to drag-and-drop a Website tab to the Windows 7 taskbar, transforming it into an icon that can, when right-clicked, open up a “jump list” full of one-click links to that Website’s most vital content. Windows 7 users can also “Aero Snap” their browser windows to the left or right of the screen, which comes in particularly handy when comparing two Web pages side-by-side.

In light of all that, Microsoft can only hope that people continue to migrate from XP to Windows 7 at a steady rate – not necessarily a bad assumption, considering that Windows still controls a lion’s share of the market. Another big question, though, is how quickly Microsoft can deliver Internet Explorer 9 in mobile form – because even as the company fights for the traditional browser market, there is also the burgeoning smartphone and tablet market with which to contend.

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