Microsoft Woos Developers With Latest IE9 Preview

Microsoft Wednesday unveiled the second platform preview of its Internet Explorer 9 browser, which isn't due to be released to market for another year. Industry watchers expect the iterative versions will help Microsoft keep developers interested in its technology as the browser market shares become ever more fragmented.

Microsoft seeks browser comeback with IE9

Microsoft made available its IE9 Platform Preview 2 download this week, touting speedier performance and better support for standards. (Read about users' reaction to the IE9 preview.) The company reported that according to WebKit.org's SunSpider benchmark test, IE9 had gotten faster, with improved results from the first platform preview to the second by 117 milliseconds. Microsoft is also working on interoperability in its latest browser revision. 

"We're submitting 79 new tests (bringing our total to 183 tests) to ensure true interoperability and achieve the goal of developers writing the same markup. You've heard it before: We love HTML5 so much we actually want it to work," a company spokesperson wrote in a press statement.

Microsoft representatives in March unveiled the first preview platform at MIX 10, saying it would continue to deliver preview versions every 8 weeks. This version comes at about 7 weeks following the first, proving Microsoft is working to keep developers interested in the platform, according the Sheri McLeish, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"It is an iterative process and the product won't be out for another year, give or take. But if Microsoft is able to have it out in public and have developers banging around on it, that generates and maintains interest," McLeish says.

The company could be ramping up the release date considering a highly competitive browser market, which for Microsoft is relatively new. Recent data from NetMarketshare shows that for April 2010 Microsoft IE garnered nearly 60% of the Web browser market, with Firefox claiming close to 25%. Other competitors such as Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari accounted for nearly 7% and about 5% of the market, respectively. While Microsoft remains in the lead, it has been losing share points and there continues to be "strong competition on the horizon," McLeish says.

"The impact of Google, the menu choice in Europe, and the rise of Apple -- these things are all making it increasingly difficult for Microsoft to maintain these very wide margins of market share," McLeish says. "If you roll up the many versions of IE (IE6, IE7 and IE8) currently on the market together, Microsoft is still dominant. But Microsoft's interest is to get IE9 out there and put all these other versions to bed."

According to Forrester data, the combined versions of IE on the market today have more than 70% market share, with two versions of Firefox holding 20% of the market. Chrome tapped out at about 7%, with Safari not even garnering 1%. The monthly browser usage data was based on more than 90,000 client visits to Forrester.com. Another survey of 115 collaboration and productivity decision makers showed that 60% felt Internet Explorer was the best at ensuring "functionality of business critical enterprise apps."

"With these releases, Microsoft gets developers trying out their products, which ultimately helps them put a better product on the market," McLeish says. "A company as big as Microsoft does have the ability to get a million people hacking away on these applications and it serves them well."

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