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Microsoft attorney ‘exposes’ Netscape sales policy

The memos show Netscape expected not to be paid for some of its browsers, but we knew that already...

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Microsoft attorney John Warden seems adept at the art of flogging a dead horse, if today's court proceedings are anything to go by. The latest 'dynamite' Netscape email revealed -- shock horror -- that Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen was in 1994 committed to giving Navigator away for free. This would of course seriously take the wind out of accusations that Microsoft had trashed Netscape by giving Internet Explorer away for free, if it were entirely true. But according to the very memo produced by Warden, Andreessen wrote: "We're absolutely committed to giving [Netscape's browser] away for personal use." (our italics) This is no more and no less than a statement of the course Netscape actually followed. Netscape followed the then ground-breaking course of establishing a very high volume software distribution channel on the Web, allowing people to use Navigator whether or not they took out a licence, and effectively writing-off the licences "for personal use" that never got paid - ie. most of them. Netscape instead made its browser revenue from corporate and ISP licences, and this worked fine until Microsoft started giving IE away, and rolling up Netscape's corporate and ISP deals. Netscape's sales model was based on a perfectly rational estimation of the willingness of the 'personal' user to cough up the bucks, combined with a similarly rational estimation of corporate customers to do so. Ordinary users don't pay, corporate users can be persuaded to go legit fairly easily. So Andreessen was just setting down a valid business plan that has been publicly known for some years now. What, therefore, does Warden think he's driving at? ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories

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