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According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft tried to get Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen to appear at its Next Generation Windows Services launch in Seattle today. Andreessen now heads hosting company Loudcloud.

For some unfathomable reason Andreessen's diary is busy for today, and Microsoft has had to settle for using another Loudcloud executive on tape.

This looks like one of those publicity stunts that its authors thought probably couldn't fail. For, accept or decline, they fancied, it would make Microsoft appear magnanimous. As co-author of the first popular browser, and co-founder of Netscape, Andreessen, has a totemic value at industry events like today's NGWS dog and pony show.

But we're not so sure. Netscape was the focus of many of the actions that Judge Jackson found marked a pattern of anti-competitive behaviour, including an attempt at a market division agreement, where Netscape was invited to give up the Windows browser business in return for, well, not being crushed.

While other targets of Microsoft's tactics - Sun, Apple and IBM - can be presumed to be big enough and old enough to look after themselves in the long run, Netscape's name still resonates with the wider American public as representating entrepreneurial innovation.

So inviting the older, wiser, and humbler Andreessen in a bit part role might well have reminded watchers what they've lost... ®

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