The question from consumers perspective was whether AOL would succeed in restoring competition to the Internet browser market, he said, adding that nothing in the announced settlement did anything to lessen Microsofts monopoly grip on the browser market. Instead it "gives AOL Time Warner $750 million in cash and announces joint activity that was likely to cement Microsofts power over the Internet. "Although it appears that AOL Time Warner is not required to use Microsoft technology exclusively, this signals to other media content providers that Microsofts technology is well on the road to being dominant, so they also should use Microsofts proprietary digital rights management software to ensure that AOL subscribers will be able to access their content. It also signals developers not to attempt to make competing encryption productsMicrosoft already is in the process of locking up this market," he said.While the
future of AOL Time Warners Netscape group has been called into question by the deal, Richard Parsons, the chairman and CEO of AOL Time Warner, said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday that at this point the company did not intend to get rid of the Netscape unit, located in Mountain View, Calif. While Internet Explorer works very well, AOL Time Warner is still exploring other opportunities with Netscape, he said.
But some enterprises are not concerned about the potential demise of Netscape. Dave DeBona, a technical consultant for a retailer based in Columbus, Ohio, is confident that even if Netscape is eventually dropped there are other browsers available to provide competition for Internet Explorer.
"The settlement also certainly signals a significant about face by AOL, potentially relegating Netscape to the die-hard faithful. But, even though we install IE internally as the standard browser, our application architecture demands for browser agnostic applications," he told eWEEK on Friday.
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Consumers will have little choice but to use Microsofts products, while Web site developers, music companies, and movie studios will be forced to use Microsofts proprietary standards, he said. "They will all be caught in the middle, at the mercy of a monopoly whose power is growing. We urge the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the State Attorneys General to scrutinize it carefully to determine whether it is anticompetitive," he said.