Microsoft's IE gaining on Netscape

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Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer is gaining ground on Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator, according to the latest browser census by Zona Research.

In Zona's January survey of 211 corporate information technology professionals, 28% said IE was the primary browser used at their site. Netscape Navigator was the choice of 70%, and NCSA Mosaic held 2%.

Earlier Zona surveys show how the browser battle is unfolding:

Feb. 1996 Netscape, 74% IE, 3% NCSA Mosaic, 23%
April 1996 Netscape, 87% IE, 4% NCSA Mosaic, 9%
Aug. 1996 Netscape, 83% IE, 8% NCSA Mosaic, 9%

Since August, IE's share has more than tripled as the browser market consolidates to a two-company battle.Zona attributes the rise of IE to the increased penetration of Microsoft Windows 95, which includes IE; the availability of IE on Microsoft's three operating systems, Windows 95, Windows NT and Windows 3.1; and Microsoft's third-party endorsements and bundling deals.

Most users have more than one browser installed: At sites surveyed, there were 1.98 browsers installed per PC. During the past 90 days, Navigator had been used by 86% of those surveyed, while 77% had used IE and 24% had browsed with NCSA Mosaic.

"We see Netscape remaining a significant player because of its strong presence and brand name," said Clay Ryder, director of Zona Research. "But as the uptake of Windows 95 accelerates, we anticipate seeing increases in specific browser preferences and designations."

One issue to watch: Formal browser policies, which could drive future market share. Of those surveyed, 52% said their companies had a policy encouraging or requiring use of a specific browser, up from 24% in the previous quarter's survey.

Overall, 38% specified Navigator as the standard, 14% picked IE and 48% had no formal policy.

Zona is a Web research company based in Redwood City, Calif.

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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