February 10, 2010, 8:41 PM — Contrary to popular thought, enterprises are not wedded to Microsoft's old and buggy Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), but have largely dumped the browser, a researcher said today.
IE6 is running on only 8.3% of the PCs powered by Windows XP that Devil Mountain Software's community-based Exo.performance.network (XPnet) tracks, said Craig Barth, the company's chief technology officer. In comparison, 19.4% of the XP machines are running IE7, while an amazing 72.2% run IE8, Microsoft 's newest browser.
"I'm shocked," said Barth today. "IE6 is just a single-digit browser on XP in the enterprise ."
Devil Mountain sniffs out system information, including installed applications, from the 23,000 PCs that run the XPnet agent, a small program that regularly "phones home" with the machine owner's permission. Devil Mountain recently reconfigured the XPnet agent so that it could determine the version of IE installed on the PC.
On those computers running Windows Vista, 12.8% have IE7, the browser that shipped with the operating system in 2007, but 86.5% have IE8, which Microsoft launched in March 2009.
"IE8 has been a much larger hit than most of us thought," admitted Barth, referring to the long-held idea that while consumers may have obliged Microsoft by upgrading to IE8, relatively few enterprises have.
"IT shops are clearly getting a bad rap for being behind the curve," Barth said. "These are smart people. They know that IE6 is kryptonite. And they're mostly off of IE6 now."
The perception that IE6 usage remains strong, especially in the enterprise, has come from metrics vendors such as NetApplications.com, as well as Microsoft itself, Barth argued. "Measurements of the Web as a whole are just not painting an accurate picture of what is in the enterprise," said Barth. "They can't."
According to NetApplications' most recent data, IE6 accounts for 20.1% of all browsers in use, while IE7 and IE8 hold down 14.6% and 25.1% shares, respectively. Much of the measured IE6 usage, however, apparently originates in China, where the nearly-nine-year-old program represents 50% of browsers in use. In the U.S., NetApplications has said, IE6 share is less than 10%, a number that is similar to XPnet's.