Mobile Web browsers - Microsoft's downfall?

As we begin to use mobile devices more and more to access the Web, Microsoft's browser dominance may begin to ebb away...

There were some interesting comments to my previous post Browser Wars 2006 - Microsoft set to continue dominance. I particularly like this comment from louisng:

"Firefox 15% market share is already enough to oblige most web sites to drop IE only strategy. The key change will come, soon, when over 50% of Web browsing will be done on mobile objects, like PDA or smartphones. This is already the case in Europe or Asia. By 2008, the market share of IE on ALL browsing devices may well be under 50%!

As long as users can access a web site from Opera on a smarphone, Safari on a Powerbook and Firefox on a PC, market shares of each browser will not matter much, which is a very good thing!"
(emphasis mine) 

louisng has hit on a very good point: as we begin to use mobile devices more and more to access the Web, Microsoft's browser dominance may begin to ebb away. In China, mobile web browsing is already bigger than traditional PC browsing. MorganStanley analyst Mary Meeker noted at the Web 2.0 Conference last month that China has 363M mobile phones compared to 177M in the US; and China's Mobile Phone to Internet User ratio is a staggering 3.6:1, compared to 0.8:1 for the US (full report here). Plus according to a separate survey, the Japanese are heavy users of the Mobile Internet. For the Western world 2008-2009 will be when mobile computing hits it big, according to Meeker's report.

Early Mobile browser leaders

So who are the early leaders in the mobile web browsing market? PC browser battler Opera is styling itself as "the world leader in mobile browsing technologies". In August this year, Opera Software launched Opera Mini - a browser for mobile phones. They also recently released a mobile AJAX Platform product, which impressed mobile expert Russell Beattie. Nokia has a product called Web Browser for S60, for browsing on a range of Nokia phones. Microsoft has its Smart Phone and Firefox has a mobile browser called Minimo. There have even been hints at a Yahoo! mobile browser, as this extract from an eWeek report noted:

"Could there be a Yahoo Browser in the works?

"That's a very big question. Obviously, most of our users are coming through the browser today, but that will change as the mobile devices get smarter," Horowitz said. [Bradley Horowitz, Director of Technology Development at Yahoo Search]

"More people are beginning to access Yahoo through mobile phones and set top boxes," he added. "We're paying attention to everything that's happening in the browser world, especially around Firefox and IE … I can't speak to specific product plans but we're looking at everything.""

So the Mobile Internet browser market seems to be very much open for competition. Expect a lot of jostling for position, along with deals between Internet companies and mobile manufacturers, in the coming years.

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