Internet Explorer, Windows Phone Numbers Marked Microsoft Week

Internet Explorer and Windows Phone market share numbers from analysts helped gauge Microsoft's positions heading into the end of 2011.

Microsoft's week saw a burst of month-end numbers, which in turn offer a portrait of the company's current mobile and browser efforts.

According to analysis Website StatCounter, the combined versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer held 50.66 percent of the U.S. browser market at the end of November, a noticeable uptick from 46.11 percent in October. Microsoft managed to see that uptick in share despite aggressive pushes by Google Chrome and Firefox.

That November number was followed by Firefox at 20.09 percent, Google Chrome at 17.3 percent, Apple's Safari at 10.76 percent and Opera at 0.43 percent. Internet Explorer 8 held the top spot with 30.63 percent of the overall market.

Microsoft is intent on creating browsers that leverage Windows and local hardware in order to more quickly deliver fully rendered Websites. It is currently prepping two versions of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 8: one a more traditional desktop application, the other a "Metro"-style one for tablets running the upcoming operating system.

Meanwhile, however, Microsoft's Windows Phone and Windows Mobile market share continued to decline, according to new data from Nielsen.

Microsoft's 7.3 percent of the smartphone arena trailed Google Android at 42.8 percent, Apple's iPhone at 28.3 percent and RIM/BlackBerry at 17.8 percent. If those numbers are accurate, it's perhaps a troubling decline for Microsoft from earlier this year, when Nielsen placed its share at 9 percent of the market.

Microsoft routinely refuses to release any hard data related to smartphone sales, leaving it up to third parties like Nielsen to offer their own numbers. Adding to the confusion is the antiquated and largely discontinued Windows Mobile, whose exit is perhaps dragging on the numbers for the newer Windows Phone.

Nonetheless, Microsoft has acknowledged that Windows Phone isn't performing in the blockbuster way it had hoped. During a July 11 keynote speech at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, CEO Steve Ballmer described Windows Phone's market share as "very small," while insisting that other metrics (such as consumer satisfaction) boded well for the platform overall.

Microsoft is depending on some new partnerships with companies such as Nokia, along with its recent "Mango" software upgrade, to help turn the tide in the vicious battle against the iPhone and Android.

Microsoft is also boosting its cloud forays, announcing this past week that it has streamlined SkyDrive's ability to share and access Office documents. Users of the cloud-storage service will now be able to post documents to networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and upload and view RAW files from cameras.

In addition, the company posted still more information about Windows 8 on its "Building Windows 8" blog. The operating system will apparently be Microsoft's first to support both types of "Advanced Format" discs-512e and 4K Native-in turn boosting its ability to leverage large-capacity hard drives, a valuable utility, considering that manufacturers' hard drives are indeed growing to a size unimaginable a few decades ago.

Microsoft will reveal additional details about its Windows 8 app store in the coming week. That storefront could play a key role in Microsoft's efforts to make Windows 8 a major tablet competitor to Apple's iPad.

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