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Years ago, Microsoft hobbled its browser business by allowing five years to pass between the release of new Internet Explorer versions. Is Mozilla about to do the same thing to Firefox by moving too quickly?

That’s the debate now boiling in the technology industry over Firefox’s new rapid release schedule. It’s being fueled by a blog post by consultant Mike Kaply on the situation, which sparked a comment by one of his readers, John Walicki, detailing the challenges created by the rapid releases. An excerpt:

I’m now in the terrible position of choosing to deploy a Firefox 4 release with potentially unpatched vulnerabilities, reset the test cycle for thousands of internal apps to validate Firefox 5 or stay on a patched Firefox 3.6.x. By the time I validate Firefox 5, what guarantee would I have that Firefox 5 won’t go (end of life) when Firefox 6 is released?

Enter Firefox evangelist Asa Dotzler, who stirred up the debate by saying that Mozilla’s focus is rightly consumers, not big companies. “Enterprise has never been (and I’ll argue, shouldn’t be) a focus of ours,” he wrote in response.

That’s a bit of a shock to many of the companies that have been shifting to Firefox. Windows author and blogger Ed Bott sums up his impressions of that comment in a post on ZDNet: Mozilla to enterprise customers: “Drop dead”.

Enter Microsoft’s Ari Bixhorn, who makes his pitch in an open letter to John Walicki: “I think I speak for everyone on the IE team when I say we’d like the opportunity to win back your business,” he writes.

Those browser market stats should be particularly interesting to watch over the next year or so.

Previously: A cupcake for Firefox 5: Microsoft has some fun with Mozilla’s new rapid release

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