But can IE9 and Windows 7 help defy gravity?
First of the month means fresh browser usage data from NetApplications. Despite all the hoopla about IE9, Internet Explorer's share, as measured in usage, declined (again) in June -- to 53.68 percent from 54.27 percent in May and 55.11 percent in April. Internet Explorer 9 launched in March.
Firefox usage share dipped slightly -- 21.71 percent to 21.67 percent month over month. Chrome continued its steady gains, up to 13.11 percent from 12.52 percent. Safari also nudged up, to 7.48 percent from 7.28 percent. Opera was the month's other shocking loser, with usage sharing falling to 1.73 percent from 2.03 percent.
Google and Mozilla are now cranking out new browser versions every few months, pushing Microsoft to speed up, too. Already, Google has released three Chrome versions this year, and v13 is beta testing.
IE9 was supposed to be the browser that fixed Microsoft's problems, according to NetApps. In January, IE share was 56 percent. A year earlier 62.12 percent, and 75.47 percent in January 2008. Unless Microsoft can reverse the ongoing trend, Internet Explorer's global market share will fall below 50 percent sometime in the next 12-18 months.
As it has done in other months, NetApps spun Internet Explorer numbers around Microsoft's risky bet on Windows 7. IE9 does not support Windows XP, which still represents most of the Windows install base. NetApps seems convinced that as more people adopt Windows 7, IE usage will increase.
"We have been tracking this strategy since it was implemented, because what is happening with browsers on Windows 7+ is a more accurate predictor of the future of browser share", says NetApps. "So, is it working? IE 9 is now at 15.61 percent on Windows 7 globally, and 19.56 percent in the United States for the month of June, in both cases, second only to IE 8. On the last day of June, IE 9 was at 17 percent on Windows 7 globally and 21.8 percent in the United States".
Together, IE versions 8 and 9 had 67.5 percent on Windows 7 in June. Microsoft hasn't seen that kind of share on anything for about three years. The question to ask: Can Windows 7 help that falling rock defy gravity? Other browsers' progress is somewhat an answer. In March, Chrome 9 and 10 had 15.28 usage share on Windows 7, according to NetApps. Two months later, Chrome 10 and 11 have only 11.95 percent usage share -- one helluva drop. Adding other versions from the increasingly fragmented Chrome market doesn't get the browser to even 13 percent usage share.
Firefox 3.6 and 4 combined usage share was 16.72 percent in June compared to 22.33 percent in March on Windows 7 -- again, another colossal decline. By comparison, IE 8 and 9 usage rose 12 points from 55.13 percent. Combined, the two newest versions each of Chrome and Firefox lost 9 points of usage share. You know where it went, right?
Internet Explorer market share is falling like a rock, but Windows 7 and IE9 could defy gravity's pull. Meanwhile, Google and Mozilla should ask, as they push forward their accelerated development schedules, why they're losing so much share so fast to IE9 on Windows 7.
Every day, more businesses adopt Windows 7 and more will choose IE9 over competing browsers. Why isn't rocket science and it's not so much about the web standards support Microsoft can't stop thumping about. Microsoft caters to the browsing needs of businesses, the three other major competitors -- Apple, Google and Mozilla -- don't. If anything, the rat-tat-tat development cycles Google and Mozilla have chosen go contrary to IT priorities, with stability and compatibility being near top of the list. What IT organization wants to support six or seven versions -- or more -- Chrome versions per year?
Nothing is certain. Internet Explorer usage share is still falling globally. If IE9 exclusive to Windows 7 (and Vista) can't stop the rock from falling, perhaps nothing will.