Microsoft promotes Explorer 3.0 with free Web access

Microsoft has announced deals with the publishers of seven popular World Wide Web sites that will bring their content to users of Internet Explorer 3.0. for no charge.

Microsoft has announced deals with the publishers of seven popular World Wide Web sites that will bring their content to users of Internet Explorer 3.0. for no charge. The move accompanied the release of the latest version of Microsoft's Web browser, and is the latest in a series of blows the company has traded with rival Netscape over the hotly contested Web browser market.

Between now and the end of December, Explorer 3.0 users will be given free subscriptions to ESPNET SportsZone, Hollywood Online, InvestorsEdge.com, the online edition of the Wall Street Journal, MTV Online, Riddler.com, and MicroWarehouse, Microsoft officials say. Financial terms of the agreements have not been disclosed.

Hours before the Microsoft announcement, Netscape released details of its forthcoming Navigator 3.0 update, which the company claims will be faster and smaller than Explorer. The Netscape release is widely regarded as an attempt to upstage the release earlier this week of Explorer, and some analysts are heralding Microsoft's counterpunch as a sound marketing ploy.

"This is a desperate but brilliant strategy to increase market share for Explorer," says Mary Doyle, a senior analyst with Framingham, Massachusetts-based market research firm IDC/Link. "These are proven popular sites, and for consumers, 'free' is the best word in the English language. "It's good for Microsoft that it can afford to give this type of value-added content away," she says. "I seriously wonder if Netscape can afford to respond."

In a survey of 2995 home media consumers conducted by IDC in June, 39.4% of those who use the Internet said they use Navigator, while 10.4% said they prefer Explorer, Doyle says. While Microsoft may not overtake Netscape in the near future, she says, "not many would put their money on Netscape by 2000 when they know Microsoft can pull announcements like this."

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