The browser wars are pointing toward better days ahead for Microsoft (MSFT).
Netmarketshare shows the company's Internet Explorer browsers taking back some of the share lost previously to Google (GOOG) Chrome, returning closer to levels it achieved in September. It's the third straight month of gains.
Many people forget that, despite it being the "browser you love to hate" (Microsoft's term), Microsoft still represents half the browser market, and Microsoft's sense of humor about its troubles is improving consumer attitudes toward it.
The gains may be hard to maintain as rumors continue that Microsoft is ready to dump Version 7, which still has some market share. If it can even maintain share while dumping old versions, it's serious progress.
While the largest piece of Microsoft's current browser share is held by Version 8, Version 9 is leading the gains. Most of the gains are coming at the expense of Chrome, with Firefox holding roughly steady. Both of those rivals hold nearly 20% of the market each.
Why does this matter? Because just as it improves its performance with the current release, Microsoft is readying yet-another browser, IE 10. This one will come in two versions - one of them focused on the new "Metro" interface that's also integral to Windows Phone.
Reviews of IE 10 are already coming in, and they're positive, especially regarding security and privacy. Better security also means plug-ins don't get the access they once had to user files, breaking many and giving Microsoft more control over the user experience. Microsoft's anti-tracking tools may also become a Web standard.
This doesn't mean Microsoft is out of the woods, nor that it's about to overtake Apple (AAPL) again any time soon. But remember the law of large numbers. If you have $6,000 in Microsoft shares, you've got almost 200 of them, and a $1 gain in the stock price nets you $200. If you have the same money in Apple shares you have 10 of them, and it would take a gain of $20/share to net you the same profit.
Most Seeking Alpha investors don't need that math lesson, but it's nice to keep in mind when you're watching the tape fly by.