Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 9 beta is enjoying favorable reviews, but what impact will it have on the PC market? IE has dominated the desktop browser landscape for years--its share topped 90 percent not long ago--but upstart competitors, most notably Google Chrome, continue to nibble away at IE's massive slice of the global browser pie.
According to analytics firm Net Applications, IE's worldwide market share has hovered near 60 percent over the past six months. While a far cry from its halcyon days, IE appears to have stabilized, at least for now. And that's good news for Microsoft, which has watched Chrome double its share (current at 7.5 percent) in less than a year.
In the business market, the arrival of IE 9 adds an interesting twist to the PC upgrade cycle: The browser won't run on Windows XP, which is still widely used by companies globally. In fact, Net Applications reports that two-thirds of Windows systems worldwide that went online in August were powered by XP, according to Computerworld.
It's unlikely, however, that IE 9 will contribute to a PC-upgrade boom among businesses, which are already migrating to Windows 7.
"I doubt enterprises will upgrade specifically because of IE 9," IDC PC analyst Tom Mainelli told PCWorld via e-mail. "The fact that there's no hard ship date doesn't help. However, IE 9 could eventually add fuel to the fire of the current corporate refresh that we expect to continue through next year."
IDC system software analyst Al Gillen agrees that IE 9 won't speed a business migration to Windows 7. In fact, companies running earlier versions of IE might take their time before upgrading to version 9.
"They may actually delay deploying IE 9," wrote Gillen via e-mail. "They would have to test IE 9 to make sure it works right with their internal apps, and that would disrupt a (Windows 7) roll-out that is partially completed."
The real reason businesses are upgrading to Windows 7 is that their PCs are very old--often 4-plus years--and are starting to fail.
"IE 9 is nice, but to be honest, it could be more of a deterrent" to upgrades, wrote IDC PC analyst Bob O'Donnell, who added that previous browser upgrades have caused problems for Web-based apps. "If any in-house Web-based applications don't work on IE...that would be more problematic than helpful."
Redmond's snubbing of XP may pose a problem as well. "Microsoft has really limited its potential adoption rate in the near term. It seems a flawed strategy to roll out a high profile new browser only to exclude something like 80 percent of the world's Windows machines," Mainelli wrote.