Microsoft may be being all cocky about video codecs in Internet Explorer 9, but the reality is that the browser's share of the market is on the slide. Slowly, since it's just fallen below 60%, but it's still downwards.
Net Applications, author of the study that reveals this news, says that it's the first time IE has fallen below 60% (since reasonable measures of market share began). The big MS browser's loss is someone else's gain though—and in this case it's the shiny speediness that is Google Chrome, and the slick UI of Apple's Safari that benefit the most. In fact, now that IE occupies "just" 59.95% of the market in April, Chrome has soared to 6.73% and Safari has risen to 4.72% (a browser record high). Firefox is the only big-hitting rival to IE, though, and it too has scored a win with 24.59% market share.
Does the average end user care about this one jot? Most probably not. This inertia is the reason IE has kept its market dominance so long. Technically speaking it's not the most advanced browser, and in terms of a user experience, it's very far from being perfect. But it's on so many Windows machines, and so many people have used it as their only portal to the Net for so long that it becomes habitual. It's likely that the legally enforced browser ballot (to combat MS's monopoly) in Europe is contributing to the stats ever so slightly...though this does presuppose that a user faced with this potentially baffling choice doesn't just jab at the icon for a familiar program they know and have oft-used.
The stats are more possibly interesting as a litmus test for the PC industry as a whole, and they gently hint at some market changes that are seeing more Apple laptops and desktops going through electronics store cash desks, and the slight loosening of the grip of MS on the portable industry as a whole (with netbooks sliding into the coveted spot, noting that not all of these run Windows). With the tablet industry just taking off, and Apple's Mobile Safari set to dominate the browsing experience of many millions of computer users this year, it's likely that IE's dominance will continue to slip. Which may be a great thing for the Web.