Microsoft Set To Launch Internet Explorer 9 Monday At SxSW

The battle of the browsers is heating up.

Microsoft will launch its Internet Explorer 9 browser Monday as the company tries to reverse its declining position in the browser software market.

Word of Microsoft's plans comes as Mozilla announced the availability of the release candidate of Firefox 4, the long-awaited next release of the popular open-source browser. And earlier this week Google released Chrome 10, the latest update of the search engine giant's entry in the browser competition.

The coming updates are particularly important for Microsoft and Mozilla given that Internet Explorer has been steadily losing market share while Firefox's has been largely static for months.

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Microsoft is expected to formally debut IE9 at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, according to a Microsoft blog posted Wednesday by Ryan Gavin, Microsoft senior director, Internet Explorer business and marketing.

Microsoft made IE9 available as a release candidate on Feb. 10, the last step before the new browser software is released to manufacturing. Release candidates lock down a new software product's functionality and give developers and partners time to adapt their applications and services before the product is generally available.

IE's market share has been steadily shrinking for several years and is currently around 57 percent, according to recent numbers from Internet statistics firm Net Applications. While Microsoft has attributed that to declining use of older versions of IE, the company is counting on IE9 to reverse the overall trend.

IE9 will offer better performance, a smaller memory footprint, support for new Web standards, and a new feature called "tracking protection" that will allow users to select the Web sites they want to block from gathering information. But perhaps the most significant aspect of IE9 is that it won't support the aging-yet-prevalent Windows XP, only the more recent Windows Vista and Windows 7 desktop operating systems.

Next: What The New Chrome And Fire Browsers Have To Offer

The release candidate of Firefox finally moves the new edition of the open-source browser out of its beta stage where it has seemingly been forever. Improved performance is the forte of Firefox 4, which, if no major bugs are found, could be generally available as soon as the end of March.

The good news is that Firefox 4 has been under development for a long time and subsequent releases of the browser might follow quickly later this year.

Google Chrome 10, released earlier this week, also boasts the ability to load Web sites quicker and run Web applications faster, thanks to Google's new Crankshaft Javascript engine, which is built into Chrome 10. The new release also provides an overhauled Options interface.

While IE has been losing market share and Firefox has been treading water, Chrome has been steadily gaining share and all versions of the browser combined now account for more than 10 percent of the browser market.