Five years ago: Zona attacks Netscape browser war tactics

A research company has thrown a spanner into Netscape's complaints about Microsoft's tactics in distributing Internet Explorer

Netscape recently wrote to US Department of Justice, saying Microsoft had unfairly gained an advantage in Web browsers by a series of tactics including discounts, marketing funds and financial incentives for PC makers, ISPs and other concerns. Yesterday, California-based Internet industry analyst Zona Research said that references to Zona's browser census had been used in a misleading way in a letter of complaint Netscape sent the DOJ.

Zona said that Netscape had suggested its research showed Navigator to be the dominantly preferred rather than most used browser which was the intended purpose of the statistics. "I was very surprised to see Zona Research material included in the letter which Netscape's attorneys sent to the DOJ," said Zona's president Stephen Auditore. "Their interpretation was inconsistent with the results."

In a strongly worded press release, Zona criticised Netscape's use of its numbers, saying: "Netscape's attorneys elected to use Zona Research material ... and took some interesting liberties with the interpretation," the release said.

The firm also took the opportunity to counter Netscape's view of Microsoft's tactics. "Clearly Netscape's attorneys would like the market to believe that Microsoft is some sort of crazed, turbo-powered beast, rumbling through the primal diluvial swamp of the Internet market, ripping chunks of competitive flesh for their personal mastication ... Netscape's attorneys ... seem to be pushing the idea that any operating system enhancements which incorporate functions that have heretofore been available as third-party products represent a new form of bundling. If this were the case, then the major TCP/IP vendors should be joining the chorus to wail about the embedding of a TCP/IP stack in Windows 95, which decimated what had been a $500+ million annual market."

Zona also took shots at Netscape's suggestions that Microsoft had used unfair financial incentives, saying "these appear to be simply marketing and co-op funds. To buy into the notion that these are illicit and illegal, you have to suddenly decide that common and historical business practices such as marketing funds, co-op funds, trade-ins, and so on have become sinister."

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