Microsoft under pressure in China

09 September 2009

BEIJING: Microsoft, the IT giant, is seeing the online stranglehold previously enjoyed by its Internet Explorer platform in China gradually erode under pressure from a number of domestic rivals, the latest figures suggest.

According to estimates from iResearch, Microsoft once held a 96% share of the web browser market in the world's most populous nation, but this has now declined to 57.8%, and the exact total could be lower still.

Ding Li, an analyst at iResearch, said "according to my research, nearly 96% of China's internet users have used an IE browser at some time in their lives, but only 50% of them keep to it regularly now."

In particular, Microsoft's share is being squeezed by three local alternatives with a combined market share of 31.1%, and which are "adopting advanced techniques and updating their products continuously," Ding said.

Tencent has developed its own web browser, TT, and hopes to attract some of the 300 million people who are members of QQ, its instant messaging service, to switch to its new system.

"Its users are Tencent's most prominent advantages. If TT can combine QQ software with its Tencent TT browser, it may become a browser with the biggest amount of users in the future," Ding said.

Qihoo360's360 Secured Browser, which is known particularly for protecting the privacy and data of its users, has increased its market share by 50% over each of the last three quarters, to 8.4% in all.

Qi Xiangdong, president of Qihoo360, argued "safety has become a top priority for people when choosing a browser. The 360 Secured Browser uses its 'isolation mode' to block any Trojan horse virus."

Maxthon is another competitor to Microsoft, and offers a range of user-friendly features, such as tools allowing consumers to identify and access their favourite web portals from any computer.

Chen Jieming, ceo of Maxthon, said "most of our users were born between the 1970s and the 1990s and we are trying to attract those born before the 1960s to use our Maxthon browser."

Chen said Google's web browser, Chrome, has also struggled to make in-roads in the rapidly-developing online marketplace in China, for a mixture of technological and cultural reasons.

"Even though Google's browser uses many of the most advanced technologies from all over the world, it still hasn't gained popularity in China. Some Google Chrome functions aren't even compatible with some Chinese websites," he said.

Other multinational operators such as Firefox and Opera are also struggling to establish a substantial presence in the country as yet, according to Ding.

Data sourced from Alibaba; additional content by WARC staff