Starting next year, HP's PC customers will be able to select the Netscape browser as their default window to the Internet.
The Netscape 8.0 browser will ship on HP's PCs in the US and Canada starting early next year, with links both in the Start menu and on the desktop of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. Users will also be able to make the browser their default choice when setting up new HP PCs, according to a Netscape spokesperson.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser currently dominates the market for Web-surfing software, but Netscape developed the first Web browser to enjoy widespread adoption. Now part of AOL, Netscape has continued to develop its browser as an alternative to the much-reported security flaws found in IE.
At one point in the 1990s, most PC companies shipped both browsers on their PCs. However, that practice declined as Microsoft began to integrate IE with the Windows operating system.
"We think this is the first actual non-IE browser to be included on any [Windows] PC since the 1990s," Weinstein said.
Netscape 8.0 shares the same code base as the Firefox browser, an open-source project from the Mozilla Foundation. But it also uses rendering technology found within IE that Firefox does not, allowing Netscape users to completely view some Web pages that do not load fully in Firefox.
The browser comes with a list of trusted Web sites that require the IE rendering engine to deliver the best viewing experience, and automatically switches to the IE rendering engine when a user requests one of those sites, Weinstein said. Netscape users can set the IE rendering engine as their default option, but would then be exposed to malicious code written to exploit IE, he said.
HP's PC group surveyed customers on their Web-browsing preferences, and enough of them expressed an interest in having a choice of default browsers for HP to move forward with the deal, director of worldwide consumer PC beyond-the-box at HP, Nick Labosky, said. The company chose Netscape because of the dual rendering engines, he said.
However, Netscape also is providing a financial incentive for HP to distribute the browser, Weinstein said. He declined to specify the terms of the agreement between the two companies.
HP is working out its plans for alternative browsers in other regions of the world, Labosky said.
HP has shown more of a willingness than some of its other mass-market Windows PC competitors to offer customers choices other than Microsoft's operating system and Intel's processors. AMD's chips can be found within several HP PCs for both consumers and business customers, while the Linux operating system is also available for small business PCs on HP's website.