Internet Explorer continued ita slow, steady decline last month as it dropped to 54.4 percent market share, a new low for Microsoft's browser. Given that it's free software, you might think that this doesn't matter to Microsoft. But it presents big problems for the company, for everything from Bing to the cloud, to Windows Phone 7 and beyond.
Computerworld reports Net Applications found that in September, Internet Explorer declined for the seventh straight month, falling nine-tenths of a percentage point, the most since last September, when the browser's market share fell by 1.1 percent. Chrome was the big winner for September, growing seven-tenths of a point.
Why should Microsoft care whether people use Internet Explorer? It's given away for free as part of Windows, and when new versions are available, is free as well, after all.
There are plenty of reasons Microsoft needs people to user Internet Explorer. A browser is everyone's primary gateway to the Internet, and if you control the gateway, you can route people to your services rather than have them head to a competitor. Bing is IE's default search engine, so if Microsoft can get as many people as possible to use IE, it will increase IE's market share, because a certain number of people never change the default. That can spell big income and a way to try to eat into Google's lead.
The next big battle among Microsoft, Google, and Apple will be for providing cloud services to consumers as well as businesses. If more people use IE, Microsoft will be able to expose more of them to cloud services, including those on Windows Live and SkyDrive.
Internet Explorer can also help give Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 tablets a boost. Microsoft is designing a cloud future in which all of your settings, IE bookmarks, and files are synced in the cloud, and available to all of your devices. If someone uses IE on a PC, they'll see the benefit of having their bookmarks in sync with those on a smartphone, so may be more likely to want to buy a Windows Phone 7 device. The same holds true for tablets.
Beyond that, Microsoft wants companies to use IE as the default front-end for enterprise apps, because that way, companies will be more likely to use other Microsoft software, such as Office.
All this means that even though Microsoft doesn't get a penny from anyone buying IE, there are big benefits when people use it, and serious problems when people abandon it for a competitor.
This story, "Internet Explorer's Market Share Declines, Spelling Trouble for Microsoft" was originally published by Computerworld.