Boy, don't you just love a good computer industry brawl? You
know, the kind where both combatants are smart, boast good technology
and are ferociously determined to win.
It's not just fun to watch, but also good news for those on the
sidelines. The end result is often better products for computer
You and I are the beneficiaries of competitive animosity.
And there's no better techno-slugfest right now than the one being
waged by Netscape Communications and Microsoft Corp. It's fascinating
on several levels, including the fact that Microsoft is playing the
unusual role of an underdog.
Netscape owns as much as 90 percent of the market for browser
software used to view the World Wide Web, and Microsoft wants a large
chunk of that flesh.
On Aug. 13, Microsoft released version 3.0 of its Internet
Explorer browser. The following week, Netscape unveiled Navigator
3.0, though vigilant `Net surfers found it had been quietly posted
the Saturday before on Netscape's download sites.
Both are very good. But as is often the case with competing
products in the same genre, they outshine each other in specific
areas. Here's a look at how they compare:
* Setup -- Advantage: Navigator. As your mother always told you,
first impressions are very important, and Navigator 3.0 is much nicer
to install on your computer. At 5.7 megabytes, it's a smaller
download than Internet Explorer 3.0, which clocks in at 6.2 megabytes
for a comparable setup.
Navigator is much more polite in its installation, because it lets
you decide where to put the program. Internet Explorer installs on
your C: drive, period, even if you don't have enough space there.
And speaking of space, the installation process in Internet Explorer
spreads up to 55 megabytes in temporary files across your hard drive,
though the final product is more in the 15 megabyte range.
* Interface -- Advantage: Internet Explorer. Microsoft has done
its usability homework here, with a very friendly interface that
makes Netscape's button-heavy system look old. Internet Explorer
uses a series of panels that "light up" as your mouse cursor moves
over each one. Internet Explorer also can be customized more than
* Speed -- Slight advantage: Navigator. Navigator loads about a
second faster on both my 100-megahertz Pentium clone with 32
megabytes of random-access memory and a Cyrix 6x68-P200 with the same
amount of RAM. …