For Microsoft (MSFT), the Internet Explorer browser is more than another piece of software. It is a strategic element of the company’s effort to build a large online presence to compete with Google (GOOG) and Yahoo! (YHOO).
Microsoft took the browser lead from Netscape almost a decade ago in a series of moves that lead to antitrust suits. Although the legal troubles cause Redmond a headache, it had built such a formidable lead that it could use Internet Explorer to promote its only portal, MSN, and also distribute its Microsoft Live search capability.
As Google has moved into server-based document and spreadsheet software, Internet Explorer gives MSFT a platform to provide it an edge to compete in these businesses.
In a recent poll from TechCruch, the tech site found that 49% of high tech user base use IE competitor Firefox. Internet Explorer finished second with 40%. Granted, this is a very advanced user base.
TechCrunch also points out that 400 million copies of Firefox have been downloaded in three years and the browser has 120 million regular users.
It would be bad news for Microsoft to lose any more ground in the browser business, but it is beginning to look like that is probable.
Douglas A. McIntyre