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Net Applications data, chart via Microsoft

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 browser is now used on more than 20 percent of PCs running Windows 7 worldwide, outpacing the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox counterparts. Microsoft’s IE team noted the milestone in a blog post last night, citing the latest market research from Net Applications.

The numbers are even higher in the U.S., where IE9 is above 27 percent market share on Windows 7.

However, Internet Explorer usage overall continues to fall, according to the same research. Across all types of desktop computers, all versions of Internet Explorer represented 55 percent of browser usage in August, down from 66 percent two years ago.

Apart from Microsoft’s success in getting people to abandon IE6, there’s another factor playing into the trend: Microsoft made a decision to no longer support Windows XP with the IE latest version, citing the age of Windows XP and saying that the best and most secure experience comes from using newer versions of the operating system. Features of IE9 on Windows 7 include the ability to pin sites to the Windows 7 taskbar and quickly jump to specialized tasks or pages if site developers have enabled the Jump List functionality.

Firefox and Chrome both support Windows XP, with Mozilla saying it doesn’t feel comfortable leaving behind an operating system that still gets a large amount of use.

So which trend matters? To Microsoft, the answer is clear.

“In terms of how we measure success and what we’re aiming for, it’s all about the latest version of our browser on Windows 7,” said Roger Capriotti, director of IE marketing. “Our flagship product, IE9, on Windows 7, our other flagship product, is the best browsing experience. And as long as we see people growing and preferring IE9 on Windows 7, we can feel really good about our business.”

It’s an interesting perspective, but for now the strategy remains a risk. According to the latest Net Applications data — which for the first time separated mobile and desktop browser usage into different data sets — more than 52 percent of desktop computers are still running Windows XP.

On the other hand, Windows 7’s market share is now more than 30 percent, and growing.

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