Microsoft to start auto IE updates

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Microsoft to start auto IE updates

Hopes to regain share from Chrome.

Australian users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser will be the first to receive a new silent update feature unveiled overnight by the software giant.

Local users will begin receiving updates to the browser automatically from next month over Windows XP, Vista and 7, provided they have enabled automatic updates in the operating system. 

Enterprise and other customers that want to control updates themselves will be able to "opt-out and set their own upgrade pace", detailing several options on its IE blog.

"One of the things we’re committed to as we move to auto updates is striking the right balance for consumers and enterprises – getting consumers the most up-to-date version of their browser while allowing enterprises to update their browsers on their schedule," wrote Ryan Gavin, general manager of Internet Explorer business and marketing.

The move mimics Google's long-running software update scheme for its fast-growing Chrome browser, while Mozilla also plans to add the feature in a future version of Firefox.

The move to silent updates from Microsoft's rivals has also coincided with more rapid release cycles and, in Chrome's case, the introduction of developer and "canary" builds for testing new features.

However, there has been no sign Microsoft intends to accelerate its browser release cycle in line with its rivals.

Should Redmond speed things up, its opt-out processes also should help it avoid the criticism directed to Mozilla when it accelerated the Firefox release cycle, jarring with enterprise testing requirements for internal web applications.

Automatic updates will also address security threats from running older versions of the browser, and ensure mass deployment to support richer development features, Microsoft adds.

All preferences such as the user's home page, search provider and default browser will remain unchanged in the process. 

Microsoft has traditionally found it difficult attempting to force user upgrades of its ageing Internet Explorer 6, widely reviled but continuing in popularity.

Chrome 15 most popular

Microsoft's news comes as Google's Chrome 15 became the most widely used single browser version this month.

According to web analytics firm Stats Counter, Chrome made up 23.6 per cent of the world's browsers in the last week of November, while Internet Explorer 8 had 23.5 per cent.

By the week beginning December 5, Chrome had extended its lead to more than two per cent with 24.55 per cent share against IE 8's 22.16 per cent. 

Chrome remains a long way off IE's dominance when all versions are counted. In November, when Chrome overtook Firefox, about 40 per cent of the world's browsers were some version of IE. 

The remarkable part of Chrome's rise was that it occurred during the working week, suggesting higher adoption in the enterprise, Global Stats chief Aodhan Cullen said.

"Chrome 14 and 15 have been overtaking IE8 at weekends since the beginning of October," he said.

"However, Chrome 15 overtook IE8 for the first time during the five-day working week... It looks as if people favour Chrome on weekends at home but office commercial use has now caught up." 

In Australia, IE 8 remains the top browser version but Stats Counter figures show a steady decline in share.

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