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M$ updating programs to better battles competitors

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Microsoft

Linux is just one of Microsoft's headaches. The software giant is facing competitive threats in nearly every part of its business.

Microsoft's Web browser, Internet Explorer, has steadily lost market share in the last year and now holds less than 90 percent of the market, according to NetApplications.

The biggest beneficiary has been Firefox, a browser that, like Linux, was created by open-source software developers.

As with Linux, Microsoft has awakened to Firefox's challenge.

It announced this summer that it would update Internet Explorer for Windows XP instead of reserving new browser features for its upcoming operating system, Windows Vista.

The new Internet Explorer, a trial version of which has already been sent to developers, has browsing "tabs" that allow users to access multiple sites without opening new windows.

It takes the first steps toward incorporating RSS feeds, a type of syndication service for Web sites. And it includes space for a search engine in the toolbar.

In short, it does a lot of the things Firefox does, plus some added security features to protect users from phishing scams.

"Even with the gains Firefox has made amongst early adopters, 85 to 90 percent of users are still using IE, and those users are going to love what they see" in the new version, said Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of Internet platforms and security product management.

Other competitive battles Microsoft faces:

  • Personal computer operating systems: Microsoft still dominates the desktop - and the laptop - but Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS has made a little noise lately. And in Europe, Linux is beginning to creep onto corporate PCs.

  • Music: Apple's iPod and iTunes online music store took the industry by surprise. Microsoft, meanwhile, is encouraging makers of music players and music sellers such as Napster to support a common standard for copyright protection. That strategy will win in the long run, Microsoft believes.

  • Cell phones and portable devices: Microsoft makes an operating system for "smart" phones and handheld computers, but it's battling PalmSource, Symbian, Linux and many more.

  • Gaming: Sony's PlayStation console still rules the market, but Microsoft has carved out a place in some gamers' hearts with the XBox.

BY CRAYTON HARRISON
The Dallas Morning News

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