Sunday, March 20, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 Lures Back Browser Defectors


Microsoft has made major development changes in Internet Explorer 9 to bring back the millions of users who have been lured away by Mozilla Firefox. Microsoft is positioning IE 9 with one foot on the desktop and one foot in the cloud; cloud-based software that used to run on the desktop, such as CRM, now runs as services on the browser.

Microsoft Relevant Products/Services's new browser, Internet Explorer 9, seems to have little to say about Microsoft. It doesn't even say "Internet Explorer" anywhere on the browser.

Microsoft has trimmed the fat off the glassy browser frame, creating more on-screen playground for Web developers to stretch out on.

It's clear Microsoft has made some major development changes to bring back the millions of Web users who have been lured away by Mozilla Firefox, a competitor that has whittled Internet Explorer's share from more than 90 percent to 57 percent of the market.

Microsoft released the new browser Monday night in an event at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. It's available for free download at www.beautyoftheweb.com.

While Microsoft still is the most popular browser, Mozilla now has 22 percent of the market with Firefox, Google has 11 percent with Chrome, and Apple has 6 percent with Safari, according to research firm Net Market Share.

Computer users spend more time in the browser than any other application on the PC, and it will become an even more important chess piece as users move toward cloud Relevant Products/Services computing. The browser, after all, is the gateway to cloud computing.

"I still view the browser as the main portal to the cloud and what we think of as the access Relevant Products/Services point, where we're going in the future, how we consume information and how we consume documents," said Lee Nicholls, director of global solutions at Getronics, the IT Relevant Products/Services services branch of KPN.

"If you look at what Microsoft is doing itself with the next generation of Office, you see more and more things that have one foot on the desktop Relevant Products/Services and one foot in the cloud."

Cloud-based software that used to run on the desktop computer now runs as services on the browser, such as customer Relevant Products/Services-relationship management (CRM Relevant Products/Services), expense management and data Relevant Products/Services reporting.

"If I have to look at a status report off a SQL server or off a database or a CRM application, why can't I just access it from a browser?" said Michael Cherry, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm in Kirkland.

"It still comes down to their (Microsoft's) fear that Windows will become irrelevant. It's now become a dual-pronged threat. The first threat is browsers and the second threat is operating systems like (Apple's) iOS," Cherry said.

At Monday's launch, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Dean Hachamovitch said, "We want browsing to be a great experience so people keep choosing Windows to do it."

Cloud-software companies like Full Armor are also using the browser as the front door to the cloud. The company uses the browser to deploy Web applications, to run hybrid cloud applications that run both on the browser and in Microsoft's video download software Silverlight, and as the pathway to download cloud apps onto the PC.

"It's a great initial medium to get to the cloud because you've got such a wide reach if you just make the browser the access point," said Danny Kim, chief technology officer of Full Armor.

The line between the browser and the operating-system Relevant Products/Services environment is blurring with the new generation of browsers.

Internet Explorer 9 supports the new Web standards HTML5, which allows for richer, more animated Web sites that feel like applications.

Internet Explorer takes advantage of PC hardware Relevant Products/Services with hardware-acceleration, which uses the PC's graphics chip to run graphics on the Web.

Forty million people have downloaded the beta and release-candidate test versions of IE9 since September, Microsoft said.

Microsoft has also built more Windows features into IE9, including the ability to pin sites to the bottom toolbar. The pinned sites can then be right-clicked for Web site options.

A major hurdle is that IE9 does not run on the older Windows XP operating system, which will limit how many people will adopt the new browser.

The other challenge is the rapid growth in browser use on non-PC devices, such as Android smartphones and iPad Relevant Products/Services tablets.

Internet Explorer 9 will not have a mobile version of its browser ready until later this year at an unspecified date and only for Windows Phone 7.

The company also has not said anything about building a browser for iPad or Android tablets.

"Where IE9 is really absent is in the tablet Relevant Products/Services and mobile-device Relevant Products/Services space," Nicholls said. "That's where they might get hurt."

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