Microsoft Sees IE Share Decline in European Markets

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-03-22
 
 
 

Microsoft has seen market share for Internet Explorer decline in certain European markets following the March release of a "Web browser choice screen" designed to give Windows users in the European Union a selection of browsers other than Internet Explorer, according to Web analysis firm StatCounter.

The ballot screen was introduced as an automatic download to European users on March 1 as a tactic by Microsoft to sidestep concerns from the European Commission, the EU's antitrust regulatory body, about the bundling of Internet Explorer 8 with copies of Windows. EU users can choose from a randomized list of major browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple's Safari, as well as smaller browsers such as Maxthon, SlimBrowser, Avant Force, Flock, Sleipnir and GreenBrowser.

According to Reuters Canada, some 200 million computers will receive the ballot-screen update.

Since March 1, companies such as Opera Software have reported an increase in the number of European browser downloads, based on their internal numbers. The data from StatCounter suggests that, at least in some European countries, that uptick in downloads could be at the expense of Internet Explorer, which has seen its market share in those areas decline even as that of other browsers has risen. In some cases, the decline in Internet Explorer market share continues an ongoing trend.

In France, IE's market share declined from 51.82 percent on Feb. 9 to 49.34 percent by March 10, with other browsers experiencing marginal gains; that downward trend for Microsoft had been continuing since December 2009. In Italy, market share for IE during that same period declined from 55.4 percent to 54.2 percent, while the market share for other browsers rose.

In the United Kingdom, IE ended a slightly upward trend with a 0.81 percent dip in that February-to-March period.

The trend did not continue throughout Europe. In Germany, IE's market share saw a marginal rise, from 26.57 percent to 26.94 percent, between February and March. Other browsers either stayed level or else declined, with Firefox experiencing a nearly 1 percent drop.

As of March 10, according to StatCounter, all versions of IE had a 46.44 percent share of the overall European market, followed by Firefox with 39.26 percent, Opera with 5.8 percent, Chrome with 4.28 percent, Safari with 3.18 percent and "Other" with 1.05 percent.

Although the ballot screen seems to have assuaged the European Commission's concerns for the moment, other featured browsers have lodged complaints. In response, Microsoft introduced an algorithm sometime after March 1 that introduced more randomization in the order of the larger browsers appearing on the screen's opening view.

However, the smaller browsers have protested that the ballot screen is structured unfairly, with their products only visible if the user scrolls sideways, and they want Microsoft to include a visual element such as an arrow that would indicate more browsers are available to the initial screen's right-hand side.

While it may seem like a minor issue to some, the smaller browsers apparently see the configuration of the ballot screen as a chance to gain vital market share in the European arena. In a March 2 conversation with eWEEK, Flock CEO Shawn Hardin said, "We can't compete with the sort of money that the top guys have, so this choice screen is enormously important. And it's just enormously disappointing that it happened this way."

Representatives of the seven smaller browsers apparently met with several EC commissioners on March 3. During that meeting, reportedly, those commissioners reiterated a commitment to providing European users with full access to the 12 browsers represented by the ballot screen.

"The EC recommended that the seven browser companies engage with Microsoft as a group, and if they can come to a mutually agreed-upon solution, the EC will fully support it," a spokesperson for Flock told eWEEK on March 10. "Flock CEO Shawn Hardin has reached out to Microsoft on behalf of the group to schedule a meeting, and Microsoft responded that they 'will get back to the group shortly.'"

When contacted by eWEEK about the reported EC meeting, a Microsoft spokesperson responded with a flat-out, "No comment."

 


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