HP to ship Netscape browser on new PCs

HP and Compaq consumer PCs and notebooks in the U.S. and Canada will come with the browser starting next year.

Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
Joris Evers
3 min read
A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

update In a move that harks back to the browser wars, Hewlett-Packard plans to ship Netscape's Web browser on new consumer PCs and notebooks starting early next year.

The agreement, announced Monday, is the first browser distribution deal with a major PC maker since the end of the browser wars in the 1990s, according to Netscape, a division of Time Warner's America Online subsidiary. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The company in May released Netscape 8, a browser with features to protect users against online scams.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer is by far the most-used Web browser, but smaller players have been pecking at its market share. Mozilla's open-source Firefox browser has a loyal following. Opera Software is also making noise, announcing Sept. 20 that it will strip the ads out of the free version of its browser.

As part of the HP deal, consumers will be able to choose Netscape as their default browser during computer setup, a Netscape representative said Monday. Icons for the browser, which will be customized with links to HP and Compaq Web sites, will appear in the Windows Start menu.

The Netscape browser was once ubiquitous, but it was marginalized after Microsoft introduced IE in the mid-1990s. The acquisition of Netscape by Microsoft rival AOL and a lengthy antitrust trial did not help change the browser's fortune.

However, several high-profile security vulnerabilities in IE last year, as well as a lack of new features in the browser, provided some opportunity for Microsoft's rivals to make gains. Netscape and Mozilla have touted security as the No. 1 selling point for their browsers. Microsoft has responded with plans for an IE update due next year.

Netscape 8 includes features to protect users against online threats such as phishing and spyware. The browser automatically adjusts security settings while people surf, based on lists of Web sites that are known to be malicious or trusted. Phishing scams typically combine spam e-mail with fraudulent Web sites to trick users into giving up sensitive information such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers.

Netscape 8 is based on Firefox, but lets users switch between both the Firefox and IE browser engines. Many Web sites have been built to work with IE, so supporting both the Firefox and IE engines maximizes compatibility.

"We specifically chose the Netscape browser because it has the added advantage of hosting numerous security features while also having the ability to run both the Trident (IE) and Gecko (Firefox) rendering engines," Nick Labosky, a director at HP, said in a statement sent via e-mail.

HP will ship Netscape in the U.S. and Canada. The company is evaluating browser plans for other regions, Labosky said. "HP believes in giving the customer choice," he said. "This decision is reflective of the momentum of users in the marketplace who are choosing to have more than one browser on their desktop."

Microsoft's browser still dominates in terms of usage. In September, Microsoft held 86.87 percent of the U.S. browser market, Firefox garnered 7.55 percent, and Netscape stood at 2.16 percent, according to data from analytics firm Net Applications.


Correction: This story incorrectly identified Internet Explorer's rendering engine.