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GPL-style availability of NetScape 5.0 sourcecodes

I wonder if the Netscape source-code issue will resemble USR's (now
3Com) initial success in the pocket-organizer market.

Two features of the Palm Pilot got me to finally buy one of these
gadgets: the instant-backup feature (a synchronization button which
eliminates the problem of losing your phone list if you lose or break
the unit), and the availability of tons of freeware on the web written
by home-hobbiests, consultants, and 3Com VARs.

The reason I'm still using it weeks later is its instant-on feature.
Unlike the typical Windoze environment, I can look up a phone number or
other bit of info within a couple hundred milliseconds instead of 10 to
60 seconds.

Naturally, the Gates juggernaut has its on eye on this market too, and
binary compatibility with Windoze might guarantee lots of 3rd-party
applications, but it won't give me the speed and simplicity of the 3Com

Why do I compare all this to Netscape's sudden conversion to the church
of RMS?  Well, it's definitely true that there will be tons of home-hobbiests,
consultants, and Netscape VARs who will create source-code hacks for the
newly-open environment.  And these hacks may run more efficiently than
external stuff like Java, Acrobat readers, and so on.  Some of them might
even set new standards for how people interact with other people or software
tools on the net.

So it seems like Netscape should in fact get an initial boost out of this.
(One catch:  if they succeed with it, Microsoft can easily copy their
initiative, and publish IE Explorer source code...and if it's better
documented and/or cleaner, a likely prospect since Explorer was written
from scratch after Netscape had already pioneered the market using software
piled on top of some pretty cobbled-together code, Microsoft could beat
Netscape at this game.  Home hobbiests are typically motivated to write
freeware to build resume material, and Microsoft experience carries clout
with recruiters.)

The 3Com pocket-organizer will likely either get clobbered by a
Microsoft success, despite the fatness of Windows CE and its apps, or
else it will enjoy modest success as a niche product which never hits
the big-time simply because only a limited number of people will ever
want pocket-organizers.  (Microsoft loses interest in products once it
becomes apparent their market is too small.  If the market's big, then
Microsoft seems to go after it with gusto, using a rather impressive
marketing technique to deter 3rd-party support for competitors.)

Stakes in the browser market are fairly big, since the browser determines
how users authenticate their access to servers on the net, and it determines
numerous protocols and document formats yet to be created.  So ultimately
I don't see how Netscape can win with this strategy unless by using this
source code it can recruit key players who define server/communications
protocols and document formats independently of Microsoft.

Footnote:  there is a mini version of Netscape for the 3Com pocket-organizer.
Wonder if indeed Netscape could win by migrating more people to such platforms
which are uninhibited by reliance on the Windoze binary compatibility
standard?  History would indicate this is also a failed strategy; Windoze
is winning in part because software developers got tired of supporting a
dozen different platforms.  But it's not a complete failure; there are a
number of moderately successful niche platforms, and today there are plenty
of people making a living on (for example) Linux.

Opportunity: The cable Internet set-top box platform has yet to be
defined, and Windoze is too fat to ever win over the execs of the
TV/cable industry.


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