Firefox 'not being aggressive enough'

Firefox has signed a distribution agreement with Real Networks after hitting the 200 million download mark, but analysts believe it should be doing more
Written by David Meyer, Contributor and  Tom Espiner, Contributor

Mozilla should be pushing the Firefox browser even more aggressively into the enterprise market, a senior analyst has told ZDNet UK.

The popular open source browser hit the 200 million download landmark this week. Describing the threshold as "a nice psychological barrier in terms of numbers, but no more than that", RedMonk principal analyst James Governor said the imminent release of the next Microsoft operating system would be a crucial test for Firefox.

"The acid test is really going to be the Vista wave into next year and whether they can really win a sustained share when Microsoft comes back with a fully integrated set of [Internet] components, such as Microsoft Live," Governor said on Thursday.

He suggested that the Mozilla Foundation, which distributes Firefox, should be "more explicit about targeting the enterprise, because there's probably more willingness, certainly on the part of the independent software vendors out there, to do business".

Firefox has "not been as aggressive as it could be" with companies such as Oracle and IBM, which would have "no interest whatsoever in seeing Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7) as an access mechanism", Governor added.

Microsoft's recent decision to push out IE 7 as an automatic update for Windows XP users has drawn criticism from security experts, who have called the product "bloated" and have recommended rival browsers such as Firefox or Opera as safer, more convenient alternatives.

"Just when you think Microsoft is getting it together, it turns out it's creating more problems for users. Firefox has made significant inroads into the IE installed base, and has really woken Microsoft up. It's a personal trainer kicking Microsoft's fat lazy arse out of bed," suggested Governor.

That said, Firefox itself, which is now thought to have between 13 and 16 percent of the global browser market share, has recently been the subject of malware attacks.

On Monday, a blogger for Spread Firefox, the organisation marketing Firefox wrote:

"Today the Firefox download counter crossed the 200 million mark. 200 million people seeking Firefox is a huge accomplishment."

However, this should not be taken as an indication of the number of users, the blog continued, as "not everyone completes every download, and because not every download results in a new Firefox user."

The blogger said Mozilla would like to "find a better way for our community to measure its success".

"One of the things I'd like to see us do here at Spread Firefox is to transition away from counting download clicks, and build tools that let us celebrate our very real and swiftly growing user base."

In other news, Real Networks is to start bundling Google Toolbar and Firefox in future versions of its RealPlayer media software, under a multi-year deal announced on Wednesday.

Although Google and Real Networks have already had such a deal for two years, the new agreement provides a further boost for Firefox.

Real Networks is thought to distribute more than 2 million pieces of multimedia software a day, making the deal yet another significant opportunity for the open source browser's prospects.

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