Netscape program to let users zap IE for Navigator browser

Looking to capitalise on Microsoft's current entanglements with the US Department of Justice, rival Netscape Communications is getting set to launch a new program aimed at giving users easier access to its Navigator Web browser. Dubbed 'Freedom of Choice,' the program will incorporate a button onto its Web site that will allow users to deinstall Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser from their systems and replace it with Navigator. Taking the program a step further, Netscape said it also plans to ask its partners to add the same deinstall/install button to their Web sites.

Looking to capitalise on Microsoft's current entanglements with the US Department of Justice, rival Netscape Communications is getting set to launch a new program aimed at giving users easier access to its Navigator Web browser.

Dubbed "Freedom of Choice," the program will incorporate a button onto its Web site that will allow users to deinstall Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser from their systems and replace it with Navigator.

Taking the program a step further, Netscape said it also plans to ask its partners to add the same deinstall/install button to their Web sites.

The program signals Netscape taking advantage of the Department of Justice's recent preliminary injunction barring Microsoft from requiring PC vendors licensing its Windows operating system to also preinstall its Internet Explorer browser, said Mike Homer, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Netscape.

Pricing for Navigator installed via the Freedom of Choice program will remain the same, including the 90-day free trial period, Netscape officials said. The program is set to launch in the next couple days, officials said.

Predictably, Microsoft dismissed Netscape’s move. “This is just a P.R. stunt without any substance,” spokesman Mark Murray said. “Consumers have always had complete freedom choice use any browser they want.”

In fact, PC users could end up damaging their Windows operating system if they use Netscape’s program, Murray warned.

"If Netscape hasn’t designed this right and it deinstalls any significant portion of Internet Explorer, it probably will hurt the functionality of their operating system," he said. "I imagine all it does is removes the icon or something trivial or superficial like that, but if it actually deinstalls components of Internet Explorer I think users need to be very careful about doing anything like that."

On Monday, Microsoft announced plans to appeal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling on the grounds that it was an error for the court to impose a preliminary injunction after denying the Justice Department's petition to hold Microsoft in contempt of a 1995 antitrust consent decree.

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