NEW YORK--The floor of the fall Internet World '97 show here was abuzz over yesterday's federal court order forbidding Microsoft (MSFT) from requiring Windows 95 licensees to carry the Internet Explorer Web browser.
"We're waffling about going to IE," said Wes Parker, network administrator for Waitsfield Telecom, a local telephone and Internet service provider in Waitsfield, Vermont. "[The court case] is a big concern. Do we invest time and research to go with IE? What if, in six months, the court comes out and says Microsoft must charge for it?"
The company currently distributes Netscape's Navigator 3.0 to new subscribers, but it costs the small company to do so, making the no-cost IE an attractive alternative.
"How can you compete with something that's free?" asked Waitsfield Telecom marketing administrator Kurt Gruendling, describing a common response to Microsoft's ubiquity.
Others expressed conflicted feelings about the software giant's dominance.
"Like a lot of others, I have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft," said Gary Smiley, Webmaster for Boston's Brown & Company Securities. "Technically they're as good as anybody, and for a small shop, it's easier to go out and get their stuff for free."
Michal Mart, a programmer and analyst for Advanced Standards, a Web-hosting and site-development company in New York City, defended Microsoft's right to improve Windows.
"They should be able to add what they want to the operating system," she said, adding that she didn't think Microsoft's actions would thwart competition, and that she had faith in the market's ability to decide winners and losers in business.
"Even if Netscape is going to fold, somebody else will be there to do something better," she said. "Microsoft won't be on top forever."
Another Web designer nearby, however, begged to differ.
"Them saying that the browser is part of the OS is bogus," said Bruce Hodge of Hodge Podge Consulting. "Putting in TCP/IP stacks is one thing, because that's a protocol, but a browser's a totally different story."
Menachem Rubin, owner of the Best Donut Man Web site, said he could understand both sides of the story. "Looking at it as a consumer, there should be only one browser, or at least the same shared code among different browsers, because many Web pages put one browser at an advantage or disadvantage," he said.
Rubin said that as a businessman, however, he takes the side of fair competition, and noted that he doesn't feel Microsoft has played fair.
But someone next to Rubin quickly countered his opinion.
"I disagree," said the bystander. "I think Bill Gates is doing a great service to the public.