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Can Microsoft Reverse IE’s Slide?

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Microsoft this week is trumpeting a small gain in browser market share for June as a harbinger of Internet Explorer’s (IE) comeback, after losing share every month for the past year.

According to the June global browser share numbers from Web analytics firm Net Applications, all versions of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) venerable IE gained a total of 0.57 percent for the month — its first gain in more than a year. IE’s total market share came in at 60.32 percent — still well ahead of any competitors.

“Today, Net Applications released their usage share numbers for June and the positive news continues. In June, Net Applications shows overall Internet Explorer share growing by 0.57 percent worldwide,” Ryan Gavin, senior director of Internet Explorer business and marketing, said in a post to Microsoft’s Exploring IEblog Thursday.

While Gavin’s statements may sound encouraging, however, June was the first month in more than a year when Microsoft hasn’t lost market share.

In July 2009, for instance, all versions of IE held a total of 67.68 percent of all browser usage worldwide. That’s a drop of 7.36 percentage points in just the past year. Additionally, IE usage has fallen from 75.51 percent market share in July 2008 — a drop of 15.19 percentage points over two years.

IE8 gained 0.66 percent share in June, preceded by 0.52 percent gain in May. It has grown from 1.75 percent share at launch in March 2009 to 25.84 percent today. But IE6 has fallen from 31.38 percent usage to 17.17 percent and IE7 has slid from 35.15 percent to 11.79 percent. So IE8’s gains Are offset by the losses for IE6 and 7.

It’s not as if competitors are gaining ground against the software titan at a fast clip, though. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome only held 7.24 percent share in June, up 0.2 percent from May’s numbers. Firefox, in the meantime, lost 0.51 percent in June to come out with 23.81 percent usage, while Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari gained 0.08 percent to end the month at 4.85 percent.

Gavin went on in his blog post to mention the upcoming new version, dubbed IE9, as part of the good news. IE9 just began its third platform previewrelease a week ago.

“We certainly don’t judge our business on just two months of data but the direction here is encouraging. With the excellent reception of the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Previews which have been downloaded more than 2 million times to date, the future is looking bright for Internet Explorer,” Gavin added.

Microsoft has not said when IE9 will ship, or even when it will begin beta testing.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Twitter @stuartj1000

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