In fact, Net Applications painted a gloomier picture for IE away from the desktop. In the mobile browsing space -- defined by the analytics firm as smartphones and tablets -- Apple's Safari browser dominated with a 61 percent share in December 2012. Safari is the default browser on iOS, the Apple operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad.
On mobile, IE9 accounted for just 1 percent of all usage last month, with IE10 adding a minuscule 0.06 percent, both numbers reflecting the very minor impact Microsoft's made so far on the smartphone and tablet markets.
What IE has going for it, of course, is its maker's very strong position on desktops -- Windows runs nearly 90 percent of all personal computers -- and its lock on the business market. Both bode well for Microsoft's browser.
"[IE's] enterprise focus is very important for Microsoft ... [and] is a key differentiator and one that other browser makers are not as well aligned to support," said Hilwa. "As long as the Microsoft client platform remains strong and IE browser innovation continues, Microsoft will do well."
Some, however, would argue today that that's a big "if," considering the inroads made by non-Windows devices through BYOD (bring your own device) programs and enterprise purchases of tablets like the iPad as replacements for some workers' mobile hardware -- including Windows-powered notebooks.
But for now, Microsoft can celebrate its 2012 gains.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com. See more articles by Gregg Keizer.
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