Microsoft's browser did as well as Google's browser did badly in February. Internet Explorer's share is the highest it's been in a year and a half. Chrome's is the lowest it's been in almost as long.
Internet Explorer was up 0.68 points to 55.82 percent. Firefox was back up above 20 percent, growing 0.18 points to 20.12 percent. Chrome was down sharply, losing a surprising 1.21 (giga) points, for a share of 16.27 percent. Safari and Opera were both up slightly, with gains of 0.18 and 0.07 points for a total of 5.42 and 1.82 percent, respectively.
Good news for Internet Explorer, but rather more mixed news for Windows 8. Microsoft's new operating system is growing, but not fast. Its share in February was 2.67 percent, a rise of 0.41 points on a month ago. This makes Windows 8 bigger than any single version of OS X (10.8 is the largest, with a 2.61 percent share), but it's still the smallest supported version of Windows. Even Windows Vista is faring better, with 5.17 percent of the Internet-using public.
As we noted last month, the results are better in certain demographics. According to the Steam Hardware Survey, Windows 8 grew by a total of 0.87 points, taking it to 9.63 percent of that gamer-heavy user base. Among Steam users, this means that Windows 8 has overtaken Windows XP, which has an aggregate of 9.33 percent, though 32-bit Windows XP is still slightly larger than 64-bit Windows 8, with 8.97 percent compared to 8.89 percent.
Just how bad is this? It's not the explosive growth that Microsoft or its OEMs were probably hoping for. On the other hand, it's not altogether surprising given the way the product is positioned. Windows 8 is a consumer play. There are features that are desirable in corporate environments, but Microsoft knows that corporations are still working on ditching Windows XP and continuing their Windows 7 deployments. A company that has only switched to Windows 7 in the last couple of years—much less a company that's still in the process of switching to Windows 7—isn't going to be in any hurry to get Windows 8.
Strong consumer growth, however, needs strong consumer products, and so far these have been lacking. The hybrid devices that mix aspects of the tablet and the laptop are getting better, but they're still not perfect. On the software front, the Windows Store still leaves plenty to be desired, too; Microsoft's built-in applications, especially Mail, remain a serious weakness, and third-party support has been lackluster. Notably absent is any kind of a widely appealing "must-have" touch application.
In the more volatile mobile space, now representing a little over 13 percent of all Web users, Safari remained on top, though it dropped 5.61 points from last month. Internet Explorer is continuing to grow. It's still tiny, but at 1.58 percent, it has now passed Symbian (1.37 percent), BlackBerry (0.96 percent), and Opera Mobile (0.63 percent), putting it within striking distance of Chrome for Android, which in February had a 1.96 percent market share.
In the early days of Mozilla's post-Firefox 4 releases, there was a period of initial user discomfort due to the way the company had implemented its rapid release process. Firefox extensions would regularly break, and the update process wasn't automatic. Perhaps as a result of this, users chose to ignore updates or refused to install them. This decision might have made some sense at the time, but it's rather harder to justify today.
Internet Explorer 9 and 10 both grew. Over the coming months, many Internet Explorer 9 users should be switched automatically to Internet Explorer 10 thanks to this week's release of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7. For the first time, Microsoft is publishing this release as an important update that Windows Update will install automatically on systems using the default configuration.
This isn't going to give Internet Explorer the same kind of rapid uptake that new versions of Chrome manage, but it will nonetheless be a big step in the right direction, helping the adoption of the actually rather good Internet Explorer 10.