Internet Explorer gains among Windows 7 users, despite Microsoft's overall losses

But Microsoft's long and steady decline in browser market share continued in July

Microsoft's long and steady decline in browser market share continued in July, but there is one bright spot for Redmond: Among Windows 7 PC owners, Internet Explorer is gaining, albeit only slightly.

IE9 is driving the growth, perhaps validating Microsoft's strategy of allowing IE9 to run only on Windows 7 and Vista, despite the fact that Windows XP is still the world's most widely used operating system. Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox have cut into Microsoft's total browser share in part by working across all platforms, including Windows XP, Apple's Mac OS X and Linux. Microsoft argues that browsers work better when they are tailored to a single operating system.

RETRO BROWSER SMACKDOWN: IE6 vs. Netscape in 2011

Worldwide, Internet Explorer's market share among Windows 7 users rose from 54.6% in June to 54.8% in July, and in the United States grew from 67.5% in June to 68.1% in July, according to new data from Net Applications.

"Microsoft skipped XP support for Internet Explorer 9 in order to compete more effectively on Windows 7," Net Applications writes. "In July on Windows 7, Internet Explorer 9 hit 18.5% share worldwide and 24.8% in the United States."

The bigger problem for Microsoft is that IE usage continued to decline among Windows XP users and across all types of computers. Worldwide, Internet Explorer held 59.62% of the market in September 2010, and now holds just 52.81%, according to Net Applications data. Firefox declined slightly in the same timeframe to 21.48% while Chrome rose from 7.99% to 13.45% and Apple's Safari moved from 5.27% to 8.05%.

While Net Applications measures the number of users a browser has, another group called StatCounter measures browsers based on total activity, meaning heavy users count more than light users. In this statistic, Internet Explorer fares worse, dropping from 52.68% of the global market a year ago to 42.45% today. Among operating systems, Windows has about 90% share.

Fans of Firefox and Chrome argue that once Windows users learn of other alternatives, they are likely to switch to gain speed and the flexibility to deploy extensions. They got some validation when a study released last week claimed that Internet Explorer users scored worse in an IQ test than users of all other browsers.

Putting a good face on the numbers, Microsoft has trumpeted IE9's success among Windows 7 users. This may not be enough to reverse Microsoft's overall browser decline, but with Windows 7 usage rising quickly it can't hurt.

"Microsoft has been pushing Internet Explorer 9 and Windows 7 as the best browsing experience on Windows 7 because of IE9's use of hardware acceleration and integration with the Windows 7 user interface," Net Applications says, adding, "There are indications that this strategy is working."

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