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Bug sends Navigators to IE

Software company CyberMedia apologizes and posts a patch to a bug in its product that changed users' default browser from Navigator to IE.

CyberMedia executives today apologized for a bug in the company's software that inadvertently changed some users' default browser from Netscape Communications' Navigator to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and they said a patch is being offered on CyberMedia's Web site.

The bug in its "First Aid" software, used to detect and fix common PC problems, drew many complaints from users, who remain loyal to Netscape as Microsoft cuts into its dominant position in the Net browser market.

Microsoft has drawn fire from many consumers, lawmakers, and regulators for its business tactics to promote IE, but CyberMedia took full responsibility for this glitch. It did not receive any complaints from Netscape, but offered a public apology anyway.

"We are truly sorry for any inconvenience we have caused our customers or Netscape directly," said CyberMedia chief executive Unni Warrier in a statement. "First Aid always has and will continue to support the widest possible range of third-party Internet products in order to meet the needs of all our customers."

Although CyberMedia's customers won't be forced to default to IE, Warrier said that First Aid 98 still requires that portions of IE 3.2 or higher be installed to take advantage of Microsoft's ActiveX technology and HTML controls.

The patch is being offered on CyberMedia's Web site via an "update now" icon located on the main screen. "We are confident that this update will address the browser issue," Warrier said. Customers who update to First Aid 5.02 also are offered a chance to win prizes that include a laptop PC, a digital camera, and a color monitor.

As reported earlier, some of the more popular applications for Quicken and Qualcomm, not just CyberMedia, require IE.

Many companies have been criticized by users for offering products that only run on IE--not only with applications but also with content. The companies are inclined to listen, because Netscape remains the dominant browser provider despite recent gains by Microsoft.

For example, Paramount Digital Entertainment, a unit of media giant Viacom, drew criticism for making some of the best content from its Star Trek and Entertainment Tonight sites available exclusively through IE. It since has dropped that practice.

Like CyberMedia, Paramount pledged to make its online material accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

As reported earlier, some of the IE-only deals have drawn the scrutiny of the Justice Department, but no charges have been filed against Microsoft on these grounds. Microsoft says it does not require any exclusivity and adds that companies use its products because of its superior technology.