Microsoft, Mozilla and Google are gearing up once gain to do battle for browser supremacy.

Internet Explorer 9 fired a salvo Monday, March 14, with the browser’s official release. Google Chrome 10 was recently unveiled; Firefox 4.0, meanwhile, is in beta and reportedly could be released in a matter of days.

What does it all mean for government agencies and public-sector users?

Governments should consider it an opportunity to develop more feature-rich websites that take advantage of the browsers’ new capabilities. IE 9, for example, includes a new JavaScript engine and full hardware acceleration of text, video and graphics, plus a more robust support of HTML 5.

Of course, the trick is to time that development cycle for when the public adopts the browser en masse — there’s no use developing new content if only a small fraction of website viewers can use it.

In government there’s no guarantee agencies will transition to IE 9.

According to a story published by PC World, IE 9 is only compatible with the Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. Governments, therefore, could be slow to adopt IE 9 simply because some of them remain on XP. Local governments in particular have put off an OS update because of the bad economy, even though Microsoft no longer offers free support for XP.

In the end, though, government’s support of IE 9 and its competitors will likely come down to consumer preferences. According to StatCounter Global Stats, as of February, IE 8 accounted for 30.3 percent of market share, with Firefox 3.5 trailing close behind at 27.9 percent.

IE 6, released all the way back in 2001, still garners 4.6 percent.

No matter what browser prevails, one near-certainty is that these new browsers will cause their fair share of programming headaches, work-arounds and compatibility issues, especially for websites that were designed without regard to Web standards