Microsoft IE's downfall 'far fetched,' says researcher

Lock on enterprise ensures long life for IE; Firefox in danger of being replaced by Chrome

Editor's note: The person quoted in this story as "Craig Barth" is actually Randall C. Kennedy, an InfoWorld contributor. Kennedy, who presented himself as the CTO of Devil Mountain Software, no longer works at InfoWorld. Given that he disguised his identity to Computerworld and a number of other publications, the credibility of Kennedy's statements is called into question. Rather than simply remove stories in which he is quoted, we have left them online so readers can weigh his data and conclusions for themselves.

Talk of Internet Explorer's demise is "far fetched," a researcher said Monday, citing data showing that more than 80% of enterprise PCs run Microsoft's browser during the workday.

According to Devil Mountain Software, slightly more than 80% of the 22,0000 PCs in the company's community-based Exo.performance.network (Xpnet) run Internet Explorer (IE), typically for much of the day.

Devil Mountain's network collects weekly snapshots of a wide range of system and application usage data on Windows PCs and servers that voluntarily run the company's metrics utility. That data is then used to offer up an authoritative look at usage trends of Windows and its service packs, as well as browsers, productivity suites and antivirus software.

IE isn't alone on the computers Devil Mountain monitors. A large chunk of business users run multiple browsers, said Craig Barth, the CTO at Devil Mountain. Almost 50% of the monitored PCs run Firefox, while approximately 20% run Google Chrome. "There's a lot of overlap," Barth said.

Devil Mountain's performance measurement software, which has been installed on the 22,000 PCs -- most of which are enterprise systems -- tracks application use by monitoring processes in Windows' Tasklist. That approach, argued Barth, shows that IE is in no danger of vanishing from the landscape, at least the corporate landscape.

"The idea that IE will go away is far fetched," Barth said. "People who say those kinds of things simply don't have a grasp on the internal organization of enterprises, or the bureaucracy of companies. Until enterprises flush out the internal applications that rely on IE, that use unsupported and undocumented layout commands, IE isn't going anywhere. And those dinosaur applications are almost impossible to get rid of."

Other means of browser measurement have tracked a steady decline in IE use from its usage share high of 95% in mid-2004. The most recent data from California-based Web metrics firm Net Applications, for instance, pegged IE's share of browser usage falling about 4.5 points in the last 18 weeks of 2009 to reach a new low of 63%.

Devil Mountain's XPnet data, on the other hand, shows IE use fluctuating during the same period, with the browser's process appearing on between 80% and 88% of PCs' Tasklists.

Barth acknowledged that XPnet's methodology counts instances of the IE process that may not be directly related to browsing, which may inflate its numbers somewhat. "The IE engine is often embedded in other applications, and sometimes is used for custom application front ends, like online help systems," Barth said. "The fact is that [IE's] tentacles permeate so many layers of Windows. So when Microsoft says it's painful to remove it, they're not kidding."

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