Nowadays, Microsoft loses browser share almost every single month, dropping to 52.71% in total number of users, according to Net Applications, and to 42.45% in total page views, according to StatCounter. The discrepancy between numbers of users and amount of usage suggests that the Web's heaviest users are the ones who replace the default Internet Explorer with Firefox and Chrome.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 took steps forward in speed, the user interface, and ability to display sophisticated content like HTML5, and Microsoft is moving to a faster release schedule that brings improvements to users on a more regular basis. Perhaps just as important, Microsoft has made IE9 available only on the newest versions of Windows, arguing that creating browsers that work across all types of computers drives quality down by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
In other words, Microsoft says Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox are hobbled because they run across Windows, Mac, Linux and older, less capable versions of Windows such as XP. Microsoft wants you to believe that unless you buy a new version of Windows, you won't get the best browsing experience.
"In the future, the browser is only as good as the operating system and the device it runs on," IE Senior Director Ryan Gavin argued several months ago. "We have to think about these things as being integrated."
Internet Explorer itself isn't a moneymaker for Microsoft, although it can be used to direct consumers to Microsoft's online services. Theoretically, someone who tries out Chrome and likes it better than IE is a potential customer for other Google products, and someone who tries out Safari and likes it may become enamored with Apple.
Because of the move from locally installed applications to the Web, the browser is becoming "the portal into your world," says IDC analyst Al Gillen. "The reason Microsoft wants to fight movement is if you can wrestle the browser away from Microsoft, the more your interface to the rest of the world becomes your browser, and you worry more about what browser you're running than what operating system you're running."