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Netscape dominates Internet But Microsoft inches closer in browsing, other Web markets

SAN JOSE, CALIF — SAN JOSE, Calif -- Net-scape remains a master of the Internet domain, but that digital crown rests uneasily on the company's head these days.

A survey released last week shows Netscape Communications Inc. with 84 percent of the market for browsers -- software to cruise through the maze of computer networks that make up the Internet.

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The Dataquest Inc. study measured actual use of various brands of software that let users access the Internet's World Wide Web. The research showed that Microsoft Corp. was a distant second with 7 percent of the market. America Online has about 3 percent of the Internet browser market. Ironically, the Mosaic navigation software, the original Web browser, created by Net-scape co-founder Mark Andreessen, clings to a minuscule 1 percent of the market.

Still, Netscape can't rest on its laurels, according to Dataquest.

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"While Netscape has controlled the market so far," Dataquest analysts reported, "Microsoft is inching closer."

That margin may become uncomfortably close. Microsoft chief Bill Gates is determined to make his software titan a big player in the Internet's various markets. Besides introducing its own Web browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft has lined up plenty of allies and devoted more resources as it battles Netscape.

"Microsoft has such deep pockets that it can throw around a lot of money," said Paulette Donnelly, analyst with Simba Information, a market researcher in Wilton, Conn. "Microsoft has marketing muscle, even if they have a second-place product."

Last week, Gates told some of the 40,000 attendees at the huge Internet World trade show in San Jose that Microsoft is working to make it even easier to use the Internet. Gates said Microsoft is adding technology to its Windows 95 operating system so people can seamlessly switch back and forth between desktop computer operations and programs on the Internet.

Plus, Microsoft said it would make information on its on-line service available to anyone on the Internet, for a fee of about $5 to $20 a month. Microsoft also said last week that it had developed a version of the Explorer program for users of the older Windows 3.1 system. Explorer was introduced with Windows 95 in August.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Netscape came virtually out of nowhere about two years ago to ride the huge surge of interest in the Internet and its user-friendly World Wide Web by providing software to use the Net. Netscape's dazzling performance has left Microsoft far behind in the quest to dominate the Internet.

"Microsoft is behind by a year or two," said Mark Lottor, owner of Network Wizard, a Menlo Park, Calif., firm that tracks Internet usage. "They can catch up. But it's going to be slow. It won't happen right away."

Part of the problem facing Microsoft is the company's Internet software is deemed to be inferior to Netscape's.

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"People are saying Netscape's browser is more sophisticated than Microsoft's Explorer at this point," Donnelly said.

The latest version of Netscape's browser, released last week, includes audio, video and three-dimensional graphics capabilities, in addition to increased security.

Pub Date: 5/06/96


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