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Pac Bell holds its Navigator

Pac Bell wants to wait and see what Microsoft's got in Internet Explorer 3.0. For now, it's happy with Netscape's Navigator.

At a launch event for Explorer 3.0 Monday, Microsoft is going to celebrate its recent successes in convincing Internet service providers to adopt Internet Explorer 3.0 as their browser of choice, but at least one, Pacific Bell, says it's resisting the software giant's pressure to endorse Explorer over Navigator.

Pacific Bell--an ISP whose service region has more Net users per capita than anywhere else in the world--is one of the ISPs that Microsoft would really like to get on its side. But the Baby Bell wants to follow a wait-and-see approach.

Pac Bell rolled out its dial-up Internet service at the end of May and picked Netscape Navigator as its default browser because it integrated a browser, email client, and newsgroup reader, as well as a built-in TCP/IP stack and dialer all in one.

A browser decision was obvious six months ago when Navigator was clearly the most dominant browser, and Microsoft's Internet strategy was still in the talking stages. Now, Navigator still dominates, but Microsoft has stepped up both its technical and political efforts to catch up. The key to that effort is convincing ISPs to support and promote the use of Explorer and at least one is feeling a bit caught in the middle.

"You can rest assured that Microsoft has been down here quite a bit," said Pac Bell Internet Services President Rick Wronicek. "They prefer we announce something prior to their launch, but we're saying, 'Show us what you got first.'"

Wronicek says that he doesn't want to offer Explorer to his customers until it has an integrated mail client and newsreader. The version to launch Monday at midnight will offer this feature as an option, but he is reserving judgment until Pac Bell gets a chance to take a closer look.

"I understand IE is very close to three sets of clients in one package," said Wronicek. "Once they have all that and it meets our minimum requirements, we can start to use it. Maybe they could be a preferred browser, but I'm sure Netscape would have something to say about that."

Other ISPs, big and small, have not been as cautious as Pacific Bell. Netcom, AT&T, and EarthLink have all agreed to feature Explorer 3.0 with their service, as well as local providers like GetNet International in Phoenix, Arizona.

Microsoft could not be reached for comment on the negotiations with Pacific Bell.

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