86.6% month-over-month growth in March, according to the latest figures from Net Applications. The uptick coincides with the general availability of IE10 for Windows 7, the world's most popular operating system. Redmond's latest browser, which has generally drawn praise, was initially available only for Windows 8.
Though seemingly huge, IE10's progress is less dramatic than its growth rate might suggest. IE products own nearly 45% of the PC pie, but IE10 has to date left most of that pie untouched, amassing only 2.93% of the market. In fact, IE10's market share even trails that of Windows 8, arguably the most polarizing product in Microsoft's current catalog. Given that IE10 shipped with Windows 8 and is available to millions of additional Windows 7 owners, it's noteworthy that the browser has been unable to match even Windows 8's troubled progress.
For IE10 fans, the browser's March expansion is encouraging, but given the size of its potential customer pool, the browser can't yet be called a strong performer. It's easy to post large percentage-based improvements, after all, when the initial value is small. IE10 controlled only 1.57% of the market in February, which means the browser could post solid growth numbers without necessarily overachieving.
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The Net Applications report paints a dominant picture for Microsoft, with various IE versions aggregately accounting for almost 56% of the market. That said, IE10's gains don't appear to have meaningfully expanded Redmond's reach; cumulatively, IE products improved only 0.01 percentage points, with much of the newest iteration's gains evidently coming at the expense of previous editions.
Indeed, though IE8 remains the most popular browser, it dipped slightly, receding from 23.38% to 23.23%. IE9 also declined modestly, shrinking from 21.67% to 20.62%. IE9 had been growing steadily prior to the introduction of Windows 8, and thus IE10, at the end of October.
Among non-Microsoft platforms, Firefox fared best. With 20.21% of the market, the browser claimed a slightly bigger share than it did in February. Google's Chrome snared 16.45% of the market in March, and also enjoyed minor month-over-month gains.
Though Net Applications depicts IE as the most popular conduit to the Web, this success is not indisputable. StatCounter, for example, has maintained for months that Chrome has usurped IE's throne. The company's March statistics found that Google's browser amassed a 38.07% share in March, followed by IE with 29.3% and Firefox with 20.8%. Among the three, Chrome is the only one found to have improved its popularity.
Inconsistencies between the reports derive from their respective sampling methodologies; Net Applications monitors both page views and individual users, whereas StatCounter tracks only page views, albeit at a massive scale. Regardless of which approach better judges a browser's popularity, StatCounter's appraisal of IE10's progress broadly matches Net Applications'.
IE10 is widely considered Microsoft's most sophisticated and secure browser. With support for more open standards than any other IE product, it has, after a period of falling behind feature-wise, become competitive with Chrome and Firefox. The new browser should continue to make gains, but with IE11 rumored to be a part of Windows Blue, the forthcoming Windows 8 update, it remains to be seen how much.
Microsoft has yet to acknowledge the gossip, let alone to reveal whether IE11 will be available to Windows 7 users, too. IE10's Windows 7 took longer than some expected, and if IE11 is confined to Microsoft's newest OS, the upcoming browser's growth prospects will be tied heavily to new hardware and whatever Windows Blue brings.
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