Microsoft Corp chief executive Bill Gates came head to head with Netscape Communications Corp’s chief Jim Barksdale on the subject of who will dominate the Internet and intranet market, in an Internet panel discussion at the Gartner Group Symposium in Lake Buena Vista, Florida this week. Barksdale said the Internet browser war between the two […]
Microsoft Corp chief executive Bill Gates came head to head with Netscape Communications Corp’s chief Jim Barksdale on the subject of who will dominate the Internet and intranet market, in an Internet panel discussion at the Gartner Group Symposium in Lake Buena Vista, Florida this week. Barksdale said the Internet browser war between the two companies will look like child’s play once the real battle begins for the multi-billion dollar corporate intranet market, forecast to grow to $12bn by 2000, Reuter reports. He said Netscape was hoping to get a significant share of this market, in which it competes against Microsoft’s BackOffice and IBM Corp’s Lotus Notes, but maintained it would not turn its back on its Navigator browser. Microsoft is currently the underdog in the browser war, where Netscape claims 70% to 80% of the market, but is winning ground with deals to have Internet Explorer bundled as the primary browser with more on-line services and Internet access providers. Last week, Internet Explorer became the preferred browser on AT&T’s Corp’s WorldNet Internet access service, (CI No 3,013). Analysts also predict Microsoft will gain more ground with its browser when it eventually integrates it into its Windows operating system.
Existing consent decree
Barksdale said he recognized the potential threat, but had a strategy for dealing with it. He said any inroads Microsoft was making with its software was likely at the expense of other competing browsers on the market. He also noted that Navigator runs on 16 computer systems while Explorer was limited to Windows 3.1, Windows95, and Windows NT. Fellow panel member Steve Case, chairman and chief executive of America Online Inc, said he believes Microsoft and Netscape will each end up with compar able share of the browser market. America Online was one of the first on-line services to embrace Internet Explorer as its preferred browser software, in exchange for a spot on Microsoft’s Windows95 desktop. Barksdale was keen to point out that rega rdless of the browser battle, 80% of Netscape’s revenues are from sales to the corporate intranet market. The debate between the two sparring partners also covered open standards, security, and government involvement in encryption and business. Although both pledged their commitment to open standards, they each accused the other of not playing by the rules. Questioned about government’s role in regulating the Internet, Barksdale came down strongly against recent moves to control encryption tec hnology, declaring I don’t think the US government knows how to ensure competition. However, he changed his tune with respect to the government’s role in refereeing Netscape’s competition with Microsoft. All Netscape wants, he said, is for Microsoft to comply with the existing consent decree, referring to the 1994 consent decree between Microsoft and the US Department of Justice, which set restrictions on Microsoft behavior deemed anti-competitive. On the subject of security, Barksdale said the two companies and Visa USA Inc, also on the panel, were working together on Secure Electronic Transactions, and they discussed how to convince consumers that it would be safe to shop and transact business on the Internet. He urged the companies to work together to explain how safe SET could make electronic commerce. It doesn’t do the industry any good to point fingers, he said. It’s sort of like the airline industry. Nobody advertises that they’re safer than any other airline. The other panelists for the most part stayed out of the fray between the two chief executives, although America Online’s Case said the competition was better for everybody. Case found himself defending his company’s relevance in an increasingly Internet-centric world, and he pointed to the company’s AOL Enterprise service, which creates a private AOL for companies. He said his company would be crucial in bringing the Internet to people who have so far ignored the phenomenon, including people that are still using 14.4Kbps modems. AOL is technology designed for the narrowband. Nobody in the consumer world has cable modems, and very few have ISDN, he said.