Net Buzz with Richard Wiggins | 6 | WebReference

Net Buzz with Richard Wiggins | 6


Volume 1, Number 20 March 31, 1998

Windows 98: Why Microsoft Should Prevail


Are Netscape and Sun Competitors or Whiners?

Since the Justice Department opened its investigation, there's been a lot of discussion as to whether Web browsing functionality belongs in an operating system or not. This seems to me to be asking the wrong question. Instead, the question is whether an information appliance should behave consistently for local information (on the hard disk), for local office information (on the LAN), and for information distributed around the world (on an intranet, extranet, or the Internet).

On the face of it, Gates' vision makes a lot of sense. Why should I as a user behave differently when I want to launch an Excel spreadsheet that happens to reside on my hard disk, as opposed to launching an Excel spreadsheet that resides elsewhere within my company - or for that matter, anywhere else on the planet? I want to point at a document and invoke the software that knows how to deal with that document.

Netscape argues that if Microsoft succeeds in implementing this vision, then there won't be any room for their browser to compete. Netscape complains bitterly that it can't compete on the browser front if the functionality is built into the operating system. I'm not convinced that Netscape ever made much money on browser sales. The Navigator was always free for non-profit and educational uses, and many small companies downloaded their browser for evaluation and never paid a dime. While some large corporations made fleet purchases, it's not clear Netscape was ever going to have significant and growing revenues from browsers.

Let's also not forget that Netscape and Sun fired the first salvos in this war. They depicted a world in which the Web browser and the Java language minimized the importance of the operating system. Sun, Oracle, IBM and others even touted the end of the PC as we know it. Microsoft's moves were in a sense a reaction to the threat of new boxes that eliminated Windows altogether. Instead of stifling Microsoft's innovation in Windows, why isn't the Netscape/Sun alliance delivering huge corporate fleets of Network PCs with the Java virtual machine as the operating system and Netscape as the browser? What happened to Corel's plans to deliver office tools as Java applets?

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Created: March 30, 1998
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