Gartner praises 'fast follower' IE 7 browser

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Gartner praises 'fast follower' IE 7 browser

Competition with Mozilla forces Microsoft to pull its finger out.

Microsoft’s newly launched Internet Explorer 7 has been praised as a “strong competitor” to rival Firefox said Gartner.

The analyst firm notes that the surge in adoption that Firefox has recently enjoyed has spurred Microsoft to up its game.

“Microsoft is often at its best when facing a strong competitor. With Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft is a 'fast follower' of competing browsers like Firefox, but it also offers several innovations,” stated a Gartner report by analysts Ray Valdes, Neil MacDonald and Michael Silver.

The study observes that the Internet Explorer (IE) user base has come under pressure in recent years as users migrated to alternative browsers including Mozilla’s Firefox, but also Apple Safari and Opera. This migration was attributed to poor security in IE “years of inattention” on the part of Microsoft to browser development.

“IE7 is a necessary and sufficient response that will staunch the flow of users away from IE, although it is not likely to win back a significant number of users who are already using alternative browsers like Firefox,” the analysis added.

Improvements in IE7 include an enhanced user interface with, for the first time in a Microsoft browser, tabbed browsing. Integrated search, RSS and scalable views have also been added.

“Some of its features match Firefox's capabilities; in a few cases – such as RSS – IE7 features surpass those offered by the core Firefox browser. But the Firefox Version 2 release is about to emerge from beta status, making it a moving target. Firefox also boasts a large ecosystem of developers that provides numerous plugs-in to extend the core functionality of the browser into different areas,” according to Gartner.

The analyst firm also praised IE7’s “significant new browser security features”, though it did note that the first significant flaw in the software has surface just hours after its release.

“We believe features included in IE7 will likely be sufficient to convince IT managers who have been considering a change to a non-IE browser to reconsider. The migration to Firefox had already slowed as usage moved beyond the early adopter segment, due to the structural advantages offered by the IE ecosystem,” stated Gartner.

“In practice, non-IE browsers were rarely adopted by entire organisations, but within some organisations, a near-majority of the most technically adept individuals chose to use alternatives like Firefox and Opera.”

Organisations using older versions of IE are advised by Gartner to “strongly consider” an upgrade to IE7. Enterprises running versions of Windows on which IE7 will not run should consider either an OS upgrade, or migration to non-IE browser such as Firefox and Opera.

The Gartner reported added that those who have already switched to non-IE browsers should not feel compelled to switch back

Microsoft will also begin distributing IE7 via automatic updates in November 2006.
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