Mobile internet to boost Safari users
As more and more people use mobile devices to surf the internet, Apple's Safari looks well-placed to claim a larger share of the browser market.
With two market-leading mobile devices in the iPhone and the iPad, Apple has seen the number of Safari users rise. While Apple's browser still accounts for a relatively small slice of the browser pie, it showed positive growth last year while the big boys, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Firefox from Mozilla, both lost ground.
The latest figures from Net Applications, which tracks browser usage among other online trends, showed that Microsoft remains the dominant player, with 57 per cent of the browser market, down from 62 per cent 12 months ago. Firefox, its closest competitor, now controls 22.8 per cent, compared to 24.6 per cent at the start of 2010.
Safari, by comparison, saw its market share grow from 4.6 per cent to 5.9 per cent over the same period. Google's Chrome witnessed the sharpest rise, up from 4.6 per cent a year ago to just shy of 10 per cent.
Apple's Macs account for a minority stake in the global personal computer market, which gives the likes of Internet Explorer and Chrome a big advantage.
But as more online activity shifts to mobile devices, that could be about to change. Last year was an important one for Apple. It saw the launch of the iPad and the new iPhone 4. As more and more people use its devices to surf the web, Safari usage looks set to continue to rise.
"Apple can do no wrong in the mobile arena where the success of the iPad, iPhone and iPod are driving growth in Safari usage," Vince Vizzaccaro, a senior executive at Net Applications, News Factor. "As far as the future for browsers, I expect mobile to become the dominant engine of growth, and I think Apple will be the major beneficiary of that growth."
Chrome's success last year is also worth noting. Google now has close to 10 per cent of users accessing the internet via its browser. And with Google as the default search that's 10 per cent of the browser market that's unlikely to switch to Microsoft's Bing.
Microsoft, meanwhile, will be hoping that IE9, the latest incarnation of its Internet Explorer browser, will reverse the recent trend and help it win back some customers. It knows that controlling the browser market will give Bing a much better chance of challenging Google's dominance.