Navigator drop forecast--sort of

Jupiter Communications predicts an alarming drop in Navigator usage but neglects to state clearly its survey's focus.

Jeff Pelline Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jeff Pelline is editor of CNET News.com. Jeff promises to buy a Toyota Prius once hybrid cars are allowed in the carpool lane with solo drivers.
Jeff Pelline
2 min read
Jupiter Communications today released a survey predicting an alarming drop in market share for Netscape (NSCP) Navigator--from 59 percent to 38 percent by year's end--but it neglected to state clearly that the survey only focused on the consumer side of the market.

Jupiter went on to say that Microsoft's (MSFT) Internet Explorer was gaining ground and "lurks in the Netscape shadow" at 21 percent.

Netscape executives immediately took issue with Jupiter's methodology, noting that they offer the Navigator browser in both the consumer and business markets. "It's not an accurate picture," said a company spokeswoman, adding that 80 percent of Netscape's total revenues come from the business market.

Jupiter's results were dour for Netscape compared with other research findings. Only last month, another research firm, Zona Research, released its own browser share survey, showing that Navigator was the primary browser for 70 percent of users, although the figure had slipped from 80 percent in September. Microsoft's Internet Explorer had 28 percent of the market, Zona added.

Today's Jupiter survey--part of 124-page report on the company that sells for $925--underscores the sensitivity concerning predictions in the browser market, especially on the war over browser share between Netscape and Microsoft. The software makers sometimes use the results of these independent surveys to show that they are winning the ballyhooed battle for the desktop. In some cases, the findings have influenced the trading of a company's stock, particularly Netscape's.

"According to a new study from Jupiter, Navigator's comfortable market share is estimated to fall to 38 percent by the end of 1997" from 59 percent, the company said in a statement issued today. It went on to talk about the "Internet Explorer licensing rampage" and added that "Netscape's browser share is paying the price now for losing huge online service deals last year."

When asked about the findings earlier today, Ross Scott Rubin, whose group at Jupiter authored the report, said that the browser survey included both the consumer and business markets. Later, Rubin said he double-checked, and said it only concerned the consumer market.

How's that? The consumer market is Jupiter's chief audience, Rubin explained. A clue might have been offered in Rubin's title: group director of consumer Internet technologies. The research firm interviewed executives and visited Web sites to help calculate the results.

The report also said the following:

  • Netscape must maintain simultaneous cross-platform development, attack the non-PC device space, and focus new marketing efforts toward the consumer.

  • Netscape, with "60 percent server market share of leading consumer Web sites," stands to hold a market share lead over the next two years.

  • The desktop delivery space will become the new battleground for consumer interactivity between Microsoft and Netscape.