IE8 launch bumps browser's market share by 30%

Analyst takes Microsoft to task for low-key release

Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) received a small bump in market share yesterday as the company launched the final version midday, according to Web measurement company Net Applications Inc.

IE8's market share averaged 1.63% for the day Thursday from noon Eastern time onward -- when Microsoft posted the new browser for download -- a 21% increase over March's daily average of 1.35% through Wednesday. Net Applications has posted hourly market share numbers for IE8 on its Web site.

The browser's share climbed again today, to an hourly average of 1.75% through 11:00 a.m. Eastern time, bringing IE8's total increase to 30% over the month's daily average.

Even with that kind of increase, Vince Vizzaccaro, Net Applications' executive vice president of marketing, was critical of Microsoft's low-key launch. "I was a little surprised that there wasn't any advanced warning," said Vizzaccaro, "and no marketing push from Microsoft about IE8. At the minimum, there should have been something for IE users that popped up and said 'there's an upgraded browser available ... download it.'"

IE8's market share climbed above the 1% mark for the first time last month, when it accounted for 1.2% of all browsers used. That boost had been fueled by the last January launch of the browser's release candidate.

By comparison, Google Inc.'s Chrome, which debuted last September, had a 1.15% market share during February, while Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox -- IE's biggest rival -- owned 21.77% of the business.

"Chrome got off to a fast start," said Vizzaccaro, "but it really hasn't moved much since then. And they had a low-key approach when they launched it, too. On the other hand, Mozilla made lots of noise about Firefox 3.0, with a special download day, and they got millions to download it.

"Microsoft is doing the same thing that they've done with browsers in the past, but that didn't work for Chrome," Vizzaccaro said. "If I were Microsoft, I would do something more on the Mozilla model. I'd be a lot more optimistic [about IE8's chances] if there was a large public announcement that it was available."

Microsoft released the final edition of IE8 for Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 Thursday, upgrading the browser for first time in two and a half years.

Overall, Internet Explorer controls 67.5% of the browser market, according to Net Applications' numbers, which are collected from the systems that surf to some 40,000 sites that the company tracks for clients. Almost three out of every four IE users run 2006's IE7, while nearly all of the remainder run the even older IE6.

Currently, IE8 is available only as a manual download from Microsoft's main download center and the IE8 page. The company will begin automatically installing the new browser on machines now running IE6 or IE7 at some unspecified future date, at which point its market share will undoubtedly climb.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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