Compaq puts a hold on new Web browser Microsoft product gives Presario users tedious problems

SEATTLE — SEATTLE -- A computer user's disastrous experience trying to install Microsoft's latest Web browser has prompted the world's leading computer maker, Compaq, to tell some of its customers to back off from testing the new product.

"I'm still trying to fix everything and get everything back up," said Steve Touger of Seattle, referring to the new Compaq Presario he purchased a month ago at a CompUSA store for about $1,400.


In order to make his computer work properly, Touger was forced to go through the tedious process of wiping clean his hard drive and starting over, reinstalling software that had been on his system.

Microsoft and Compaq initially maintained that Touger's problem was unique. But by Friday, Compaq acknowledged that a similar fate might await tens of thousands of Presario owners, adding that it planned to post a notice on the Web suggesting that Presario users whose systems came bundled with software called "Home Base" delay using Microsoft's new browser until a fix could be made.


Asked how many Compaq owners might be affected, Mike Rubin, Compaq's director of product marketing, declined to be pinned down. "You can safely assume it [the number of owners] is in the five figures," he said.

Touger's was the first documented case about the problem that Compaq learned of, and now a "trickle of calls" is coming in, Rubin said.

The affected models, which are marketed for home use, were shipped in late 1996 and early this year, and some may still be on retailers' shelves.

Compaq started researching the problem after Touger called the Seattle Times in response to a review of Internet Explorer 4.0. Microsoft introduced the new browser two weeks ago to generally favorable reviews. With the browser -- the software that enables users to navigate the World Wide Web -- Microsoft is expected to cut into rival Netscape's market lead.

Explorer's chief new feature is called Active Desktop, a technology built into the Windows 95 operating system that essentially turns the computer's metaphorical desktop into a Web page.

But to Touger's dismay, and possibly that of other Compaq Presario owners, Active Desktop technology is incompatible with Home Base, a Compaq technology built into some Presarios.

Home Base permits multiple users of a computer to customize Windows settings and the desktop environment. Rubin noted that Presarios no longer are shipped with Home Base.

Rubin also said the incompatibility between Home Base and the new browser turned up during early testing of the new browser and was fixed in later test versions.


But for reasons that remain unclear, the incompatibility was reintroduced in the final version of Explorer, Rubin said.

Rubin said Compaq is asking Microsoft to re-release Internet Explorer 4.0 to make it compatible for Presario users whose systems include Home Base.

Microsoft officials did not return phone calls for comment.

Pub Date: 10/14/97