Mozilla's next-generation Firefox 6 browser is slated to become available for download on Tuesday -- with the final release reportedly already on the organization's FTP server. Firefox 6 will be Mozilla's third browser release this year.
Among other things, Mozilla's browser refresh will feature improvements such as extended HTML5 support, a new address bar that highlights the domain of the site being visited, and a new permissions manager that enables users to set privacy controls for each site. The goal is to keep pace with Google's Chrome, which has set a new standard for frequent refreshes containing browser innovations and enhancements.
"Both Mozilla and Microsoft have added resources and increased their rate of updates to match Google, as well as matching Chrome's speed," said Net Applications Executive Vice President Vince Vizzaccaro.
Mozilla's share of the browser market has remained relatively stable this year, with Firefox holding 21.5 percent in July, versus 52.7 percent for Microsoft's combined IE offerings and 13.5 percent for Chrome. However, at least one expected change may have an impact on the browser market in the next two years.
In July, Microsoft announced a cutoff date for the support it offers for Windows XP. Since many small businesses are still running Microsoft's venerable OS in tandem with IE6, they will be forced to upgrade to a new operating system well in advance of April 8, 2014. According to the software giant, 9.7 percent of the world's PCs were still running IE6 in July.
Windows XP business users will not have the luxury of waiting for the arrival of Windows 8 before taking action. "We believe most organizations can't skip Windows 7 and wait for Windows 8," said Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Michael Silver. "By the time Windows 8 ships and organizations do their testing, Windows XP support will be about over -- before organizations can deploy Windows 8."
On the downside, Mozilla's new Firefox fast-development track means IT departments have less time between browser releases to prepare. By beefing up its enterprise support for new versions of Firefox, Mozilla hopes to take advantage of the opportunity that the end of Windows XP potentially represents.
"Mozilla is fundamentally about people, and we care about our users wherever they are," Mozilla noted in a recent blog. "To this end, we are re-establishing a Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group as a place for enterprise developers, IT staff, and Firefox developers to discuss the challenges, ideas and best practices for deploying Firefox in the enterprise."
Microsoft is betting that most businesses still running Windows XP will upgrade to more advanced computers well in advance of XP's support expiration date. The software giant intentionally skipped XP support for Internet Explorer 9 to compete more effectively on Windows 7 machines.
Microsoft has been pushing IE9 "as the best browsing experience on Windows 7 because of IE9's use of hardware acceleration and integration with the Windows 7 user interface," noted Net Applications.
The strategy appears to be succeeding. On PCs running Windows 7 last month, noted Net Applications, IE9 accounted for an 18.5 percent market share worldwide and a 24.8 percent share in the United States.
"Although Internet Explorer lost usage share on XP, on Windows 7 [PCs] Microsoft increased global usage share, going from 54.6 percent in June to 54.8 percent in July, and in the U.S., Internet Explorer share on Windows 7 grew 0.6 percent to 68.1 percent," Net Applications observed.