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IE7 uptake stalls

Microsoft's new browser hits the wall at 31%, gets no help from Vista

May 7, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Interest in Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 7 has stagnated, a pair of metrics vendors that track browser usage said today.

Within weeks of its October 2006 launch, IE7 accounted for nearly 10% of all browsers used on the Web, reported Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications in its latest look at browser use. Over the next three months, IE7 posted month-to-month gains that ranged from 4% to almost 10%, so that by the end of February, it owned 29.1% of the market. Since then, however, it's taken two months to grow another point and a half.

The plateauing of IE7 is both striking and no surprise, said Geoff Johnston, an analyst at rival metrics firm WebSideStory. "In the last three months, IE7's growth has slowed to a trickle," said Johnston. "IE7 has a decent enough number -- 31% as of last week -- but IE6 is still higher, at 46% to 47%."

Net Applications' numbers match those of WebSideStory.

Microsoft began feeding IE6 users automatic update offers to IE7 in early December 2006. Users, however, were allowed to decline the upgrade to IE7, and enterprises were given tools to block the move to the new browser. Microsoft also committed to supporting the older browser until 2014.

"Consumer apathy, or laziness, is extremely difficult to overcome," said Johnston. "Lots of people are obviously quite happy with IE6 and don't see any reason to upgrade as long as it's working for them."

Even the introduction of Windows Vista, which runs only IE7, hasn't made a difference of late. After a 4% jump in IE7 use from the end of January to the end of February -- Vista was released to consumers on Jan. 30 -- adoption slowed to 0.9% the next month and just 0.6% in March.

The stalled uptake of IE7 contrasts with a steadier migration of Firefox users from the older Version 1.5 to Version 2.0. In the seven months since Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox 2.0 debuted, it has essentially swapped places with 1.5; by the end of April, said Net Applications, Version 2.0 accounted for 10.2% of all browsers, close to the 10.5% that Firefox 1.5 controlled last November. It has only been in the past month that Firefox 2.0's uptake slowed to less than half the earlier month-to-month average.

According to Net Applications, Firefox now holds 15.4% of the browser market, while Internet Explorer has 78%. Apple Inc.'s Safari also posted an increase in April and now stands at 4.6%; Opera Software ASA's Opera browser slipped slightly and remains under 1%.

Firefox's gains continued to come at the expense of Internet Explorer. "Even with IE7, Microsoft is still losing market share to Firefox," said Johnston, who noted that WebSideStory tracked a 0.5% decline in IE over the past month. "It's still eroding."

Both Mozilla and Microsoft are working on their next-generation browsers, although Firefox 3.0 will likely beat IE8 to market by about a year. Mozilla's schedule is to finalize Firefox 3.0 before the end of the year, while Microsoft recently hinted that IE8 will appear in the fourth quarter of 2008.

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