Fighting back from a report that says its browser share might be trailing Microsoft's for the first time, Netscape will unveil a product Thursday that aims to woo Internet Explorer users.
Netscape plans to unveil Netscape TuneUp for IE -- a new software product that offers the features of its Communicator browser to users of rival Microsoft's Internet Explorer. TuneUp can be downloaded for free by the end of October.
The new software is an attempt to lure IE users to its Netcenter portal site -- and possibly get them to switch to Navigator in the future. After users download TuneUp for IE, they can take advantage of Communicator features, such as Smart Browsing, and set their search default to Netscape, which will then send them to the Netcenter portal -- even though they'll still be using IE.
"We feel that if IE users like these services, there's an upside that they'll upgrade to Communicator," said Ken Hickman, program manager for Communicator. Smart Browsing lets users search for information by typing keywords in the URL box at the top of the page, and offers users a list of additional sites that are popular with the users of the site they're currently visiting. Netscape would not reveal details of how it plans to distribute and advertise the software.
Analyst Barry Parr, director of electronic commerce strategy at International Data Corp., applauded the move. "I really like seeing Netscape being more aggressive in terms of going after IE," Parr said. "There are a lot of people who are using IE who aren't particularly wedded to it."
However, Parr said Netscape needs to put a lot of marketing muscle behind the move if it really expects users to switch. An IDC study unveiled this week showed that IE was gaining on Netscape's browser, holding a 27.5 percent share versus Netscape's 41.5. However, when AOL users -- who are forced to use IE -- are added into the mix, Microsoft's share jumps to 43.8, leapfrogging Netscape.