Netscape UK fights for life in a tangled Web

Microsoft's battle to remain all-powerful in the British computer software market is being tested by the British subsidiary of Netscape, the upstart American concern which pioneered the concept of Internet browsers.

In one corner is mighty Microsoft, the company which enjoys a 90 per cent near-monopoly of desktop PC software and which is determined to extend its commanding position and become the dominant supplier of Internet software. In the other is Netscape Communications, a three year-old upstart company which invented the first commercial World Wide Web browser and which, despite a multi-million pound Microsoft campaign, still has two thirds of the Internet software market.

Netscape Communications UK is run by 38-year-old Stephen Voller, an ex- IBM manager recruited earlier this year to tackle the twin tasks of astronomical growth and a battle with one of the most powerful and aggressive companies in the world.

"We have grown 400 per cent this year and this creates unbelievable problems," says Mr Voller. "Six months ago our main switchboard number had to be ex-directory because we couldn't cope with the calls from the public and from our corporate customers. I bought a bigger switchboard, hired more people and changed that, but the problems of finding new staff and training them are horrendous."

Netscape UK was founded two years ago with three people, and now has a staff of 33 operating from rented accommodation near Heathrow. Most members of staff are dedicated to providing technical support for customers. In the next 12 months Mr Voller estimates that Netscape's sales in the UK will reach pounds 25m.

"One problem is that even Microsoft's legal department in Britain is bigger than my entire staff," adds Mr Voller. "That sort of competition creates the impression that it is safer to buy Microsoft products."

Microsoft employs 700 people in Britain and last week moved into a purpose- built riverside "campus" in Reading. The three-building complex is Microsoft's largest European property investment to date.

"A main issue is Netscape's ability to support its products," said Michelle Rushbridge, marketing director of ICL Multimedia, a systems integration company whose clients include the BBC, First Direct and NatWest, and which expects to achieve pounds 1m in sales of Netscape software in the next 12 months. "Quite often the UK office has to refer back to the United States on technical issues and that causes delay and confusion with customers. We are asking Netscape to improve this situation."

In the UK Netscape's software for Internet Web servers and Web browsers is distributed by Unipalm, and systems integrators such as ICL Multimedia are responsible for developing and extending the software to create Internet sites and corporate intranets.

"Netscape's share of the Web server market is holding up well, but the launch of Microsoft's new Web browser, IE4, has dramatically reduced Netscape's share of the browser market in a way which is quite unfair," said Mark Norman, managing director of Unipalm, Netscape's principal British distributor. "Giving away an application such as IE4 and calling it part of the operating system is a brutal misuse of Microsoft's monopoly position, but I hope this is going to be corrected by the court action in the United States."

This week Microsoft will defend itself in an American court against charges brought by the US Department of Justice that the company has violated a 1995 "consent decree" in which the company agreed not to exploit its monopoly in desktop computer software to gain advantage in other markets.

The Department of Justice alleges that Microsoft has done precisely this by insisting that PC manufacturers such as Compaq, who install Microsoft's Windows operating systems in the factory, must also install Microsoft's Internet browser. Microsoft is defending the action and claims its Internet Web browser has become an extension of its Windows operating system.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen