Firefox, Chrome lure business users from Microsoft IE

Microsoft is still the king of the corporate desktop, with Windows powering nearly 96% of business computers and Internet Explorer running on 72.5% of corporate desktops.

But Microsoft's competitors on both fronts are on the rise. Apple is gaining share in the operating system market, and both the Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome browsers are luring new business users, according to data released Wednesday by Forrester.

5 Reasons Why Google Chrome Will Crush IE In Browser War

Forrester analyzed the desktop operating system and browser of more than 90,000 PCs at 2,500 companies, by looking at which technologies were used to access the Forrester Web site.

Windows usage declined, but only slightly, from 96.1% of corporate desktops in April 2009 to 95.8% in March 2010. Apple's share rose from 3.7% to 3.99% and Linux held steady at 0.18%.

The real shift in operating system trends is from previous versions of Windows to Windows 7, which has quickly become the default operating system for new computers, Forrester said.

"Already powering approximately 7.4% of corporate PCs - a level Windows Vista didn't reach until almost a year after its release - Windows 7 is on track to easily outpace Windows Vista's adoption," Forrester analyst Benjamin Gray wrote in the new report.

On the browser side, Microsoft's Internet Explorer corporate market share of 72.5% is considerably higher than the approximately 60% share Internet Explorer holds in the overall browser market, which includes both business and home users.

But IE usage is declining in the business world as well, with users abandoning IE6 for IE8, Firefox and Chrome, Forrester said. Total business market share for IE declined from 77.2% in April 2009 to 72.5% in March 2010, with IE6 going from 41% to 21.1%. IE7 has hit 34% market share and IE8 is up to 17.3% share, but those gains have not been enough to prevent the rise of Firefox and Chrome.

Firefox share has risen from 17% to 20% in the past year, while Chrome went from 2.29% to 6.88%. Apple's Safari has suffered, with market share declining from 1.24% to 0.44%. The "other" browsers category dropped from 2.1% to 0.28%, making it clear that the race for corporate browser users is coming down to Microsoft, Mozilla and Google.

Firefox has become a mainstay in the enterprise because of add-ons that "simplify and automate everyday life," according to Forrester, while Google Chrome is being adopted by the most tech savvy workers.

"Further adding to its Web-centric portfolio, Google's Chrome has experienced a slow but steady growth in the corporate browser market, thanks largely in part to tech-savvy, empowered workers clamoring for more control over the applications they run on their work computers," Forrester said.

Further shifts in market share in both operating systems and browsers are likely to occur over the next year or so as many businesses refresh their entire desktop infrastructure, and adopt new approaches such as VDI and bring-your-own computer programs.

"After years of stagnation due to lack of budget, IT managers are gearing up for a major desktop transformation project over the next 12 to 18 months that will introduce a new desktop operating system, productivity suite, browser, and applications on new PCs," Forrester writes. "Inevitably, Windows 7 is very much top of mind as firms start to refresh their legacy systems, but the browser wars are only starting to heat up."

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