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MS should keep browser with OS, says Netscape founder

They mount a two year trial, then he changes his mind?

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MS on Trial Netscape co-founder Jim Clark is at it again; in an interview with CNET over the weekend he said that Microsoft should be allowed to keep the browser with the operating system. This isn't the first time Clark has made what the government might describe as an unhelpful contribution to the trial - a begging "let's make a deal" email from him the Microsoft's Brad Silverberg was one of Microsoft's few near triumphs during legal proceedings.

Clark's rationale for keeping the OS and browser together, rather than giving the browser to the apps company after the split, is that by putting the browser in the same unit as Microsoft's Web services operations the government could be creating an even more dangerous and devastating monster.

The key point, as he tells CNET, is that the browser "can be like the operating system." Well, yes indeed Jim, and who thought of that one? Take a little trip down memory lane to the time when Netscape had the lion's share of the browser market, and was planning something called Netscape Communicator. Netscape did indeed want to hold onto, even increase its share, and Microsoft was spotting that the browser could well be used as a mechanism for running apps and Web services, and for removing the advantage Microsoft had by owning the proprietary OS standard everybody had to write for.

Use Netscape as the platform instead, the Windows effect would vanish, and Microsoft would be snookered. Thus began the browser wars in earnest, and thus Microsoft laid the first foundations of the US government's antitrust case against it.

While we're down this particular part of memory lane, incidentally, we might as well note that Netscape was then intent on achieving and maintaining a monopoly, and that it integrated products on a 'whether you like it or not' basis. We remember Lotus complaining about Netscape refusing to unbundle Navigator from Communicator. But although this sort of stuff makes Microsoft apoplectic, because it does indeed show 'everybody does it,' that's not the point; you're allowed to plan world domination, you're even allowed to have a monopoly, you're just not allowed to maintain your monopoly illegally, OK?

Anyway, Clark's latest outburst is interesting both from an ironic point of view, because integration of browser and OS was the weapon used to destroy Netscape's market share, and because he's absolutely correct in identifying Microsoft's potential to use a trick it learned from Netscape. A split Microsoft could build NGWS (Next Generation Windows Services) as a collection of middleware applications, Internet and server-based applications, without close integration with the underlying OS being necessary.

The final irony, of course, is that this seems to have been the very point Clark's old email pal Brad Silverberg was making last year, shortly before he left Microsoft. ®

See also:
Clark's CNET interview

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