Netscape has signed a series of alliances with five US Baby Bell phone companies, the latest step in its campaign to fend off Microsoft?s assault on the Internet consumer market.
The five phone companies - Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, Pacific Telesis and SBC Communications - will pay an undisclosed sum to make Netscape Navigator the preferred browser for their Internet service operations. Together they represent a potential consumer market of over 72 million users.
Under the terms of the alliances, which were due to be announced on Tuesday, users running Navigator will be able to contact their phone company?s Internet service provider via a new Netscape ISP Select feature. The phone companies hope this feature will make it easy for new customers to select their service offerings.
Gaining access to such a large potential customer base is an important move for Netscape in its ongoing battle with Microsoft. In recent months the PC software supplier has dealt Netscape a series of blows by forcing its way into previously exclusive deals with the major US network carriers by giving away Internet Explorer (IE) free of charge.
Sprint had offered Navigator as its main browser since the launch of its Internet service in August, but now intends to use IE as well. Sprint is following the lead of AT&T Worldnet Service, which no longer promotes only Netscape, and MCI Communications, which has switched from Navigator to IE as its preferred browser.
But there is good news for Netscape in a new report from Communications Industry Researchers (CIR) - 'The Future of the Web: Content, Software and Applications Driving The Growth Of The Internet' - which casts doubts on popular assumptions that Microsoft will inevitably come to control the browser market. According to the report, IE will not dominate because of Navigator?s early command of market share. According to CIR research, Navigator had a 1995 market share of 71 per cent, which is expected to hit 80 per cent this year. Over the same period, IE reported market share of four per cent, rising to seven per cent this year. By the turn of the century, the figures are predicted to be Navigator 70 per cent, IE 21 per cent.
But CIR predicts an effective duopoly in the market, with browsers not sourced from Netscape or Microsoft having to make do with the crumbs from the table unless they can find particular niche application needs to service.
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