Some welcome good news for Microsoft

Survey shows IE share back up over 60 percent

After a week of bad news for Microsoft of possible layoffs and the embarrassing Kin debacle -- even the Edsel lasted three years to Kin’s six weeks -- the company is probably looking for good news anywhere it can get it. Netmarketshare may be Redmond’s new best friend.

The Internet analytics firm reports that Internet Explorer’s market share among Web browsers once again edged past the 60 percent mark in June to 60.32 percent, after two months on the wrong side of the -- perhaps just symbolic -- mark.

I’d credit the continuing strong sales of the Windows 7 operating system, another welcome development, along with Xbox, for the beleaguered Microsoft. IE8 is, of course, bundled with Windows 7 so the more people buy computers with that OS, the more people use IE. The Web site Softpedia reported in April that Microsoft sold 100 million copies of Windows 7 since it launched in November 2009 and is on track to sell 200 million by the end of 2010. Meanwhile, anticipation builds for the release of IE9, following a preview release of the new browser in March. However, Microsoft has not yet revealed when a public beta of the new browser will be released.

Second in browser market share is Mozilla’s Firefox, at 23.81 percent in June. Firefox has been bouncing around in the 23-25 percent range the last few months. But Firefox has a card up it’s sleeve, too, with Tuesday's beta release of Firefox 4.0.

Microsoft can take some comfort that it’s beating archrival Google handily in the browser wars as Google’s Chrome is a distant third with a 7.2 percent share in June, although it’s been gaining share every month this year. But all one has to do is click over to Netmarketshare’s search engine numbers to take the wind out of Microsoft’s sales.

The June search market share numbers show Microsoft’s Bing with a microscopic 3.39 percent share to Google’s commanding 84.96 percent. Yahoo squeezed in between them for second place with 6.24 percent.

Despite the efforts of people like me to try to use “Bing” as a verb whenever possible -- as in “I binged ‘Gulf oil spill’ to see if they plugged the leak” -- Bing still seems to be struggling to build traffic. And search, as we all know, is where the money is in the form of advertising revenue.

To be sure, Microsoft has many irons in the fire to make money and put the Kin episode behind it. For enterprises, there’s the launch of Office 2010 and Microsoft’s cloud strategy, such as the Windows Azure cloud version of Windows Server, that could still pay dividends. In the meantime, the company will have to be satisfied with landing north of 60 percent in browser share and hope for a better summer than it’s had so far.

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