Sell That Worthless Division, Microsoft!

The blogosphere is abuzz with excitement over Android beating Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) in a couple of important mobile browsing benchmarks. As reported by Ars Technica, a Nexus One running the latest and greatest version of Android beats the pants off the Safari browser found on an iPhone 4. That's great for Android, though Apple will surely come back with a faster solution in no time flat.

But what Ars doesn't tell you about these benchmark figures is truly interesting. The Nexus One running Android's new Froyo update manages to embarrass Internet Explorer 8 by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) -- even if IE's running on a much faster system. Look at the results of these two tests of browsers' JavaScript performance:

Platform

SunSpider (lower is better)

V8 (higher is better)

iPhone 4

10902 ms

67

Nexus One, Android 2.2

5795 ms

297

Chrome 6

564 ms

3928

Firefox 3.6

2165 ms

192

IE 8

7170 ms

63

Source: Ars Technica and tests conducted internally.

The last three scores come from standard editions of regular browsers running on my own laptop, a Samsung R620 with a 2.1 GHz dual-core Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) processor and 4GB of system memory. By all rights, every browser taking advantage of this superior hardware should thoroughly annihilate any mobile solution . Even the 1-gigahertz Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) SnapDragon found in the Nexus One is a lightweight in this company. A modern Intel laptop processor can still make mincemeat out of the most powerful mobile processors. 

And for the most part, that's exactly how it works. The fastest smartphones available today are a huge improvement over my crusty old myTouch 3G running Android 1.6, making the web a much more pleasant place to roam. However, they just can't compare to the big boys running the dual-core Intel processor.

But if you're accustomed to Internet Explorer, today's iPhones are comparable to the desktop experience, and the Froyo-armed Nexus One becomes a marvel of speedy execution. That's just not right.

Microsoft will make up some of the lost ground with the upcoming release of Internet Explorer 9, but that won't matter for many users. You see, Microsoft is notoriously bad at getting us to upgrade our browsers from version to version. IE 6, the default browser on Windows XP, still commands 17% of the total browser market, according to recent reports from Net Applications. That's a stark contrast to Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera, all of which nudge us toward the latest, fastest, most secure version with update notifications and automatic updates.

If Microsoft wants to stay relevant in today's online world, it should start by deploying a decent browser as the default solution on millions of new PCs. Follow that up by getting us to install the darn thing on older computers. Then let's hope that the IE version in Windows Mobile 7 is up to snuff. I'm not betting on any of these things to happen in 2010.

If Microsoft was desperate to make an online mark in 2008, its efforts haven't borne much fruit today. I’m left to wonder whether Mr. Softy would be better off selling its online division , even though a suitor of willing means unlikely. In the past, AOL (NYSE: AOL  ) or Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) might have found some value where Mr. Softy couldn’t. However, the two now seem to be distancing themselves from difficult-to-monetize endeavors such as browsers.

That's my two cents on the browser market. You can weigh in with yours in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here.

Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. The Fool has created a covered strangle position on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

 


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