SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> released Internet Explorer 10 to millions of new users on Tuesday, hoping the latest version of its market-leading browser will win back customers who have migrated to Google Inc's <GOOG.O> Chrome and help it establish a toe-hold in the fast-growing mobile browser market.
The world's largest software maker, whose Internet Explorer browser elbowed out Netscape Navigator in the early days of the web, said IE 10 is 20 percent faster at downloading sites than its predecessor IE 9 and allows for touch-screen commands.
The browser has been available since late October for users of Windows 8, Microsoft's new touch-friendly operating system, but now becomes available for the 700 million or so users of Windows 7.
Microsoft is hoping PC and laptop users will like the new browser enough to consider buying Windows 8 tablets rather than Apple Inc's <AAPL.O> iPad, which does not run Internet Explorer.
Various versions of Microsoft's venerable Internet Explorer franchise still dominate desktop browsing, with 55 percent of the PC browser market all together. But it has in recent years lost share to Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome, which now account for 20 percent and 17 percent respectively, according to tech research firm NetMarketShare.
IE 10 running on Windows 8 has got generally good reviews, and has been hailed as the best version of Internet Explorer yet, but it has not been considered decisively superior to Chrome or Firefox.
In the smaller but faster-growing mobile browser market, Apple's Safari is the runaway leader with 61 percent, owing to the popularity of its iPhones and iPads while Google's Android browser has 21 percent.
Tablets running Windows 8, including Microsoft's own Surface devices, have not sold strongly since they were launched last October, restricting IE 10's popularity so far. Only 2.3 percent of computer users are running Windows 8, according to NetMarketShare.
(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)