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Did Microsoft Just Buy Netscape?

During the height of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and then U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigations of Microsoft, I covered software for Infoworld. I was in the cat bird's seat, following Lotus, Borland, Novell, WordPerfect, Borland and Ashton-Tate. I knew all Microsoft competitors and they griped to me about all their Redmond gripes -- the same ones they shared with the feds.

While all these ISVs had plenty of beef, Netscape may have had the most to lose -- after all, it was nothing without its browser. And with IE the browser wasn't just free, but part of Windows.

Fast-forward 17 years (IE became part of Windows with Windows 95) and Microsoft has just now spent a cool billion to buy 800 patents from AOL. The scuttlebutt is that these patents revolve around Netscape -- which AOL bought in 1998 as part of a deal with Sun.
If true, this means that Microsoft will have great legal control over large swaths of browser technology.

Let us not also forget that Netscape also had a suite that included a host of messaging technologies so communications tools such as Lotus Notes could also be pressured by Microsoft patents.

When you consider that Facebook is paying the same amount, a billion dollars, for InstaGram (which makes new digital photos look old) Microsoft seems to have gotten a pretty good deal.

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/11/2012 at 1:19 PM


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