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Netscape turns up the heat on Microsoft with new browser

August 25, 1996


Netscape officially released Navigator 3.0 Monday, its new software for accessing the World Wide Web. The release follows by one week the release of Microsoft Corp.'s own Web browser software, Internet Explorer 3.0.

Netscape has long held the title of most popular software used on the Web, but Microsoft is battling hard to take the lead, and its new browser ups the ante in the browser wars between the two companies.

With Navigator 3.0, Netscape gives us a peek at the possiblities that the Internet affords -- real-time audio and video, as well as a number of collaborative tools, such as a live voice connections and a shared ``whiteboard'' to allow markup of documents.

Netscape is calling its new software a suite -- a collection of Web-based applications, including electronic mail and Usenet news groups. It will be available on 16 platforms.

Navigator 3.0 is supposed to be faster than its predecessors, and like its predecessor, includes support for Java and JavaScript.

New with 3.0 is the ability to e-mail complete Web pages to another users on the Internet. They can be opened up and turn into complete documents with graphics and hotlinks to other places on the Web.

When Internet Explorer 3.0 a week earlier, Microsoft announced partnerships with content providers that will allow their respective users to visit fee-based Web sites at no or reduced charge, and on Monday, Netscape followed suit.

With a new function called Inbox Direct, content providers on the Web can e-mail content to a Netscape 3.0 user at no charge (the value of this service for all participating providers is $1,400, according to Netscape).

This includes content from some heavy hitters -- The New York Times on the Web; American Express Travel Magazine (travel-related content); C|NET (technology news and views including Digital Dispatch); Gartner Group (Intranet Newsletter at no charge through the end of the year (value $400/year). Gartner is one of leading independent advisers of technology research and analysis to business professionals); IDG Publications (online PC publications including PC World, Netscape World, Java World, Sun World) and Tip World Knight Ridder (late-breaking news and feature stories) and more.

In addition to content, more major Web sites have officially made the move to join the legions of ``Best viewed with Netscape Navigator.'' The list includes Bank of America, CBS Sports, CNN Interactive, Disney, FedEx, The HotWired Network, The New York Times, Travelocity and The Washington Post.

The final version of Netscape Navigator 3.0 is available at Netscape's Web site -- but be prepared to wait. The site is so busy you may find you can't get in to download anything. Try earlier morning or late at night for the best chance. Visit http://home.netscape.com for Navigator 3.0 and news about other Netscape products.

Distribution through traditional retail outlets is planned for later this month. Netscape Navigator 3.0 will be available in stores at a suggested retail price of $49, which includes a 90-day limited warranty and customer support. Netscape Navigator is also available through a subscription program that allows corporations and users to license a year's worth of upgrades and updates to the software for one flat fee of $66.

WAL-MART ONLINE. A lot of retailers are experimenting with on-line sales of their products, and the nation's top retailer is now on the Internet hawking its wares.

Wal-Mart Online is a tidy, well-designed Web site that won't keep you waiting for graphics and gee-gaws to download. I found the site very browseable, and if you're a price watcher, you find that Wal-Mart Online has prices competitive with your local store.

While not everything you'll find at your average Wal-Mart is available, you'll find a good cross-section of goods at their Web site.

And give Wal-Mart credit for doing their research; you'll find lots of items for sale in the categories that correspond with the demographics of the Web -- thirtyish males with money to spend.

You'll find a good selection of computer games and accessories; as well as other electronic items like calculators, cameras, phones and such.

Many thirty-something men are part of young families, and from the depth of listings under baby-related items, it looks like Wal-Mart knows this.

The graphics are simple yet effective; you won't hear or see the prices falling, but they're comparable to what you'd pay at your local store (plus shipping, of course).

Impulse buyers beware -- this site is habit forming. I purchased some software while on my first visit, and returned to shop for car booster seats for my daughter.

If you're a Sams Club member, your membership is good at the Sams Club Online, which can also be accessed from Wal-Mart Online.

The site offers secured credit card transactions if you're using Netscape. I punched in my numbers and had my receipt in my e-mail in-box before I knew it.

And you have to give these guys credit -- I placed my order on Monday and it arrived at my door Thursday morning. Not bad.

For more information, grab your credit card and point your browser to http://www.wal-mart.com.

NETSCAPE v. MICROSOFT: THE SEQUEL. Microsoft raised a lot of eyebrows earlier this year when it announced a flurry of partnerships with Internet providers and on-line services -- include America Online and CompuServe.

Both companies were part of a consortium that protested Windows 95's inclusion of Microsoft's own Microsoft Network when the operating system was released last year. The Justice Department investigated, but took no real action.

This year, Microsoft has added both AOL and CompuServe (as well as others) to its software, integrating use of these online services with new versions of Windows95.

Netscape's response was reported by Reuters on Tuesday, in the form of the release of a letter from Netscape urging the Justice Department to renew its antitrust investigation of Microsoft.

The eight-page letter accused Microsoft of having made written offers to computer makers, Internet service providers, large corporations and others providing for ``either clandestine side payments, discounts on the Microsoft desktop operating system (Windows) or payments in the form of 'real estate' on the Windows 95 (opening) screen.''

Netscape's lawyers say these inducements were made on condition that the parties involved would ``make competitors' browsers far less accessible to users than Microsoft's own browser.''

Microsoft officials dismissed Netscape's claims.

Both companies are dominant in their niche markets -- an estimated 80 percent of Web users use Netscape browsers. Windows operating systems by Microsoft are found in about 90 percent of personal computers and the now has turned to the Web as a new market to conquer.

SPRINT NEWS. Sprint Corp. announced Tuesday its plans to offer Internet access to consumers, joining the market for millions of homes after moves by rivals AT&T and MCI.

Sprint will offer a flat rate of $19.95 a month for unlimited access, or $1.50 an hour with no minimum or maximum usage requirement.

Sprint has been providing business access to the Net for quite some time, and despite the fact that it joining other well-established providers, plans to be competitive in pricing and support.

The service, dubbed Sprint Internet Passport, will provide around-the-clock access to the global computer network with a local phone call in 212 cities to start, and in more than 300 cities by year-end.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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