Microsoft Releases IE 8 to Combat Rival Browsers

ie8accelerator_webIn exactly 14 hours, at 9 am PST, you will be able to download the Internet Explorer 8.0 browser, Microsoft’s (s msft) response to Firefox, Chrome and Safari, from the company’s web site. The release is a tactical acknowledgment by Redmond, Wash.-based software giant that it’s locked in a bitter battle for market share with Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera, Google’s (s goog) Chrome and Apple’s (s aapl) Safari browsers.

So far it’s been on the losing side of the equation, ceding market share to its upstart rivals, all of whom are touting ease of use, simplicity, security and speed. Microsoft’s browser chief, Mike Nash, thinks the new IE 8.0 has got all that and more. While many of the new features in this browser are available to users of Safari and Firefox (via plugins), Microsoft is offering a comprehensive package — sans download — for a majority of the people that continue to patronize IE.Nash was particularly excited about the new security feature of the browser that protects browser users via a reputation system. Of course, security is IE’s own Achilles’ heel, so this upgrade is just part of doing business, in my view. IE8 also has a new featured called Accelerator that allows you to select words on the web site and then get relevant information from eBay, Facebook and various mapping services. Among other features in the new release that are expected to appeal to the masses: “save and restore” and “web clippings” functions.

Will that be enough for Microsoft to stop the bleeding? Yes. I say that because the company has the distinct advantage of being able to push the changes to its audience, as many of them are unwilling to consider anything beyond the default “E” on their desktop. We all know someone like that ?. To millions of Microsoft windows users, IE 8 upgrades will come as a breath of fresh air and prevent them from searching for an alternative. At least in the near term!

I think if Microsoft had to compete on an equal footing with, say, Firefox, its market share would be much lower. IE’s share of the browser market was down to 67.4 percent as of the end of February while Mozilla’s Firefox had risen to 21.8 percent and Apple’s Safari to 8 percent, according to web browser tracking firm Net Applications.