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Communicating a mass upgrade

Netscape launches an aggressive campaign to get 40 million Navigator users to upgrade to its next-generation browser, Communicator.

How does Netscape Communications (NSCP) spell success? "U-p-g-r-a-d-e."

The company has launched an aggressive campaign to get as large a chunk of the 40 million Navigator users to upgrade to Communicator. It is broadcasting email messages promoting the new Internet software to more than 1 million existing Navigator customers, according to a company spokeswoman. The email urges users to save $14 by buying Navigator 3.0 and a subscription program for receiving browser upgrades before a price increase for the company's products kicks in on April 1.

Before that date, users will be able buy Navigator 3.0 and the subscription program for $66. The subscription program will cover upgrades to Communicator and any other releases of Netscape's client software for a year after the purchase date. But after April, users will have to pony up a total of $80 for the software--$59 for Communicator and $21 for the subscription program.

Netscape first announced price changes for its client and server products in February, justifying the increases by saying the new products contain many more features than are currently available.

Now, the company is intensifying its efforts to lure users to upgrade to Communicator. Depending on how successful it is at promoting the new features in the product, Netscape could receive a hefty amount of cash from upgrades. Currently, it derives 51 percent of its revenues from client software.

Still, it's unclear how successful its latest email campaign will be. A company spokeswoman was unsure how many of the 1 million users who receive the email offer already own a copy of Navigator 3.0. Presumably, current Navigator 3.0 users will not want to purchase another copy.

Overall, Netscape is expecting a sizable number of its current users to upgrade to Communicator, though how quickly they will do so remains to be seen.

"More than half of users will upgrade fairly rapidly," said Daniel Klaussen, a group product manager at Netscape.