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Microsoft money can't buy browser spot

Qwest ISP customers can't use Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser with the service, despite the software giant's multimillion-dollar investment in the firm.

Microsoft likes to make investments to sell more software, but so far Qwest Communications International isn't playing along.

Despite the software giant's stake in upstart telecommunications carrier Qwest seven months ago, Qwest's Internet access customers are given Web browser software made by Netscape Communications when they sign up for the ISP service. The result of a pre-existing corporate relationship with Netscape, Qwest dial-up modem users can't yet choose to install Microsoft's Internet Explorer, a competing browser.

Though customers can download Internet Explorer using their Net connection through Qwest, the company has yet to add the browsing code as an option for its service.

The situation is rich with irony. Microsoft executives have often said that their investments in communications firms tie into the company's core software aims. Moreover, important aspects of Microsoft's federal antitrust case concern Internet Explorer's product promotion via business agreements.

Microsoft executives couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Consumer allegiance to one or the other browser, or other software, has taken on almost religious proportions in some high-tech circles.

Qwest is preparing to allow its dial-up Net access customers to use either Netscape's software or Internet Explorer, according to the company.

"Future revs will include the option to get a Microsoft browser or one from Netscape," said Qwest spokeswoman Christy Weiner. "We do realize the importance of the Microsoft products and other products."

The updated software package offering Microsoft's browser is expected sometime this fall, Weiner said.

Qwest, which began offering its Q.home Net access service earlier this year, would not disclose the number of people using its consumer dial-up offering.