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Netscape does the hard sell, Netcom sneers at flat fees

My golf shoes were being respiked this week so I didn't bother making the trip to greater Palm Springs for Demo 97.

My golf shoes were being respiked this week so I didn't bother making the trip to greater Palm Springs for Demo 97. Fortunately, my spies were everywhere at the conference, on and off the thoroughfare. During one round of golf, a caddie I knew from night school overheard that Netcom may be very close to yanking its flat-rate pricing in favor of metered model, a shift the company has previously hinted it would make.

Indoors, Verifone gave attendees smart cards carrying bits of digital cash, but the smile and handshake were the chief currency at Demo, freely fungible amongst the VCs, VPs, and OSes (other schmoozers). Fun was had by all.

Lotus and Netscape weren't exchanging warm fuzzies at Demo though. Netscape played a little tit-for-tat with Lotus head Jeff Papows, who was reported to have called Marc Andreessen "immature" in front of a group of reporters at Lotusphere earlier this year. During a demo of Communicator, Netscape showed a phony news article with the headline "Executive Leaves LotusSphere, Hijacks Northeast Airplane" and a mug of Papows along side.

In keeping with the airline theme, Netscape also took a more clever dig at Microsoft with another fake article, this one entitled "Albatross Airlines Safety Concerns: costly upgrades to windows required." Netscape's Mike Homer cracked a smile when he read the headline, but under the surface he must have been agitated. Whether by fiat or preference, Internet Explorer appeared to be the default browser for demos at the conference.

Selling browsers is getting to be a cutthroat business, especially since Microsoft is giving theirs away for free. The Mozilla thrillers have a new marketing technique lately: A sales account manager sends users a friendly "give me a call" email if they've downloaded market research data from IDC on Netscape's Web site (Users have to register for the data; that's how Netscape gets their email addresses.)

Market research didn't save Wired UK from going out of business earlier this month. At the same time, some Brits have begun running daily commentaries on the demise of the British edition of Wired magazine in a well done spoof, predictably titled Tired. I'm tired of waiting for you to send me your rumors. Mail 'em to me now before I take up golf again.