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Microsoft Releases Faster Explorer Suited to Web Applications

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp. Photographer: Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg

March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. released a speedier version of its Internet Explorer browser that adds privacy controls and video features, a bid to regain market share lost to Firefox and Google Inc.’s Chrome.

Internet Explorer 9 relies on HTML5, the latest version of the language that presents Web content, which lets sites handle more multimedia content. The browser’s designed to run applications within the browser more quickly, while adding more powerful privacy options than Google offers. It’s available for download today, the Redmond, Washington-based company said.

Microsoft is trying to accommodate rising demand for software that runs online rather than on the Windows operating system. The sluggish performance of Microsoft’s last browser made it harder to use Internet apps and pushed customers toward rival products, said David Smith, an analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Inc.

“The vast, overwhelming majority of new apps that are developed today are developed to run in browsers -- they are not native Windows applications,” Smith said. “Any vendor has to have a very competitive offering there.”

While Internet Explorer remains the leading browser, its dominance has ebbed over the past two years. It had 57 percent share in February, down from 62 percent a year earlier, according to Net Applications, which tracks Internet usage statistics. Mozilla’s Firefox had 22 percent, and Google’s Chrome had 11 percent. Apple Inc.’s Safari ranked fourth, with 6.4 percent.

Microsoft rose 1 cent to $25.69 yesterday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have fallen 8 percent this year.

Adobe’s Flash

By supporting the HTML5 technology for playing video, the browser deals a fresh blow to Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash -- the most popular software for watching clips on the Internet. Apple has limited the use of Flash on its iPhone and iPad, endorsing HTML5 instead, after Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs said Flash was too slow to run on mobile devices.

The new privacy features, meanwhile, put pressure on Google to respond, Smith said. Microsoft has added the ability for users to create “Do Not Call”-style lists that bar listed websites from tracking what users do on the Web.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has called for do-not-track options in browsers, Smith said. Firefox also has developed such a feature.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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