Monday, October 30, 2006

The Financial Express

Who will rule the WEB?

Will the new version of the widely used and attacked IE trigger a browser battle?

Indranil Chakraborty

Internet Explorer has just got an overhaul—the most significant in the last five years and Firefox is also getting a new version. Are we headed for another round of browser wars?

In the last few days, we have asked a cross section of people from Internet users to entrepreneurs associated with IT business on how Microsoft’s latest version of Internet Explorer (IE) browser software would change Internet browsing in India?

The general response is though IE 7 has introduced more functionalities that would make browsing easier. But there would be no drastic change in the way people browse.

Onward Novell India Linux practice head Prakash Advani feels IE is a reactive strategy for MS, which has primarily replicated the Firefox features and is weary of its growing market share.

Analysts seem to be confident of Microsoft’s domination in the Indian browser market. Globally, most market estimates peg Mozilla Firefox as the distant second in terms of market share and the rest are too distant to be counted. “Even if Microsoft did not introduce IE 7, it would not have any impact on its market share simply because the users would have continued to use the browser even in the absence of some good functionalities like tabbed browsing,” says Trend Micro country manager, Neeraj Kaushik.

Insiders point out that users are not migrating though the latest version is 18 months late. “People who buy legal Office and Windows normally stick to MS for a single user interface (look and feel) and they normally don’t go for Firefox or any other browser. The majority of Microsoft users are more engaged with Windows and MS Office than IE. For them, the browser is just another tool to access Internet”, says Microsoft reseller Charbria Infotech’s Hemant Chabria.

The reasons are obvious. The market share of IE is directly proportional to the company’s Windows sale. The bundling business has helped Microsoft to maintain a near monopoly situation in the browser market. The legal Microsoft users have to use IE to get the latest updates. Many users who like Firefox but have to use Microsoft desktop and server applications have both the browser on the desktop.

“With around 72% piracy rate, IE has become the default browser. Why would home users download Firefox even it’s available free,” says EMC security division head, RSA’s Srikiran Raghavan.

“Firefox has been able to resist IE’s total monopoly by providing better security features and high browsing speed. FireFox has been able to come up with an alternative to IE,” says Jatayuu Software managing director, Mahesh Jain.

Firefox’s functionalities like tabbed browsing, simple interface and customised configuration were popular. One important area of innovation by Firefox is the creation of more than 100 extensions that support additional functionalities, says Advani.

Though there is no conclusive study on the Indian browser market, IDC head Kapil Dev Singh says, IE could have a marketshare of over 90% in India.

Security, obviously is a hot issue. While Firefox has 42 vulnerabilities, IE has 38, says a recent Symantec study. Firefox takes one day to respond to each security threat compared to average of nine days taken by Microsoft.

IE remains an omnipresent desktop icons for most of us. After its domination goes hand in hand with Microsoft’s desktop applications hegemony in the computing world.