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Competing on Internet Time: Lessons From Netscape & Its Battle with Microsoft Hardcover – November 15, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

No other business rivalry has captured the public imagination quite like the one between Netscape and Microsoft. And for good reason. It pits the world's richest corporation against a relatively recent startup. The implications of this battle--for everything from electronic commerce to network communications--extend well into the next millennium. Competing on Internet Time, by Michael A. Cusumano and David B. Yoffie, is the definitive blow-by-blow analysis of Netscape's battle with Microsoft, starting with the founding of Netscape in 1994 through the summer of 1998, just as Microsoft was about to enter the courtroom with the Justice department over its alleged monopolistic practices.

Based on a series of interviews with Netscape employees and others, Competing on Internet Time is more than a breathless corporate biography. Rather, the authors draw lessons from the mistakes and victories that both Netscape and Microsoft have suffered and enjoyed in their war for 'Net turf--in terms of browsers, server software, and portal space. The authors come up with some surprising conclusions. For example, in examining the competitive strategies of both companies, Cusumano and Yoffie conclude that Microsoft, more than Netscape, exhibited what they call a "judo flexibility." Here they point to Microsoft's now famous December 7, 1995 Internet Day announcement of the company's embrace-and-extend strategy and its subsequent sacrifice of MSN in a deal with AOL--prime examples of how Microsoft redefined the battle in a way that avoided a direct confrontation with Netscape but nevertheless placed them center stage in the fight for Internet mindshare. The authors also go into fascinating detail about how each company operates--from the hiring of staffers to the conception, development, and marketing of products.

But this book is more than just about the conflict between Netscape and Microsoft. Anyone interested in how network-based businesses grow and change will find Competing on Internet Time a glimpse into the not-too-distant network economy. It belongs on the bookshelf of every Internet junkie and entrepreneur. --Harry C. Edwards

Review

Competing on Internet Time is a scholarly, well-researched report that sizes up Netscape Communications Corp.'s battle with Microsoft Corp. and analyzes the errors made by both sides.... Read the book before turning to the court testimony to get the complete, unaltered story. -- Upside, Karen Southwick

No wonder Microsoft_s antitrust lawyers subpoenaed the source material for Competing on Internet Time. Time and again in this microscopically detailed account of Netscape_s four-year roller-coaster ride, company executives candidly point out their own blunders in fending off Microsoft.

For anyone who hopes to avoid similar pitfalls (are you listening, Rob Glaser?), the book will surely fascinate. For instance, Marc Andreessen sums up his early dismissal of Netscape.com_s profit potential as a _billion-dollar mistake._

But some chapters will require patience, unless, of course, you like reading about UNIX and Java VM. Still, the unadorned narrative is often intriguing, as the authors recount Netscape_s sometimes nimble, sometimes misguided attempts to battle the Microsoft beast. All the pivotal moments are here, such as Bill Gates_ _Pearl Harbor Day, 1995_ announcement that Microsoft would _embrace and extend_ the Net.

Through voluminous interviews with top industry insiders, the book lays bare Netscape_s arrogance and miscalculations. But the authors never let you forget that the mistakes of this tough, creative competitor would probably have gone unnoticed if it weren_t locked in a _life-and-death struggle_ with Microsoft.

– Alex Lash -- From The Industry Standard

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 361 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (November 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684853191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684853192
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Arnold Kling on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written, interesting book. However, in my opinion, it tells only part of the story. It looks at how Netscape formulated its strategy, but not at how (or whether) this strategy was executed.
This is like explaining a football game entirely on the basis of the diagrams that the coaches drew on the chalkboard. What actually happened on the field gets no attention.
For example, the authors claim that one of Netscape's strategies was to leverage Internet standards. However, the reality is that with its browser Netscape thumbed its nose at Internet standards, particularly when it dominated the market. Even today, its browser generally is seen as less compliant with standards than is Microsoft Explorer.
Another alleged Netscape strategy was to "eat your own dogfood," which means using your own products. The reality is quite different. For example, Netscape released a production version of Enterprise 3.0 and kept its own web site on Enterprise 2.0 for several months afterward.
In 1996, a key component of Netscape's web server was something they called LiveWire, which provided scripting and database connectivity. I adopted it for my web site in the second half of 1996. However, after several months of trying to get it to work reliably, we had to abandon it, moving to Java servlets instead.
Meanwhile, as of late 1997 (when I stopped following it), Netscape's web site still had not adoped LiveWire. They let other users suffer with the bugs and problems in LiveWire, while they ran their own site using the older technology of CGI/Perl. That means they spent at least 1-1/2 years in real time (multiply by 7x to get Internet time) NOT eating their own dogfood.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Howard Aldrich on August 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found their description of the evolving routines at Netscape (and Microsoft) amazingly complete for researchers who had to do the job "after the fact." Indeed, it reads like an ethnography, which I think is the highest compliment I can pay a book that depended on interviews with key participants, rather than actually sitting in on meetings. They really captured the tension, ambiguity, and uncertainty involved in a high growth start up.
The book fits very well with an evolutionary view of how routines & bundles of routines develop within organizations. I recommend it to people interested in evolutionary theory.
The authors supply a cold dose of reality for anyone who thinks that managing a knowledge intensive high growth start is easy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book gives a good insight on the web browser wars. As times are changing towards global economy and eCommerce corporate strategies for winning the mindshare and marketshare is also changing. This is a good book to learn from the success and mistakes of Netscape and Microsoft. If you are planning to put together a eCommerce strategy for your company you can learn a lot from here
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Rogers on June 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best business books I have ever come across. The authors do a great job presenting the redical shift in business strategy made necessary by the speed of the information economy. The book is well researched and strikes a nice balance between being practical vs. academic. My only complaints are that the authors tend to repeat themselves and that the cover is misleading in that the book is basically a case study of Netscape's business strategy, and provides very few revelations regarding it's duals with Microsoft.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Wow!!! This stuff is priceless for an exec in the software world. The discipline involved in these places is good (i know, i'm a software engineer in a shoddy operations environment). Not a great business book (like Microsoft Secrets) but a great sector specific analysis of great software development. Any Cusumano book is a must read for the intelligent high-tech exec.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bhanu Dhir on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The authors could have learned much from Lorraine Spurge and her book about MCI (style, summaries and learning points). However, this book does give a very detailed account of what has been labelled the `browser wars'. There are plenty of learning points for anyone interested in becoming involved in providing Internet software/hardware, but for me not enough of an insight into the ongoing politics, marketing and personalities involved in the battle for supremacy on the web. The book is much more clinical than say Kara Swisher's account of AOL. In Swisher's book much of the technical stuff is ignored in favour of a newspaper like style. There appear to be 4 core principles around which the book is structured and apart from the introduction there are 5 chapters to go through the creation of the company, its competitive strategy as well as its development and design strategies. The last chapter is really a summary of lessons learned. Nevertheless the book does introduce concepts such as judo and sumo strategies: judo where you use your opponents strength against itself as in the case of Netscape's approach to allowing its browser to be open as opposed to Microsoft's proprietary approach. Sumo is where you go head to head, a dangerous proposition where your competitor is someone as powerful as Microsoft. " Don't moon the giant," says Ram Shriram (VP OEM). There are other nice quotes such as "eating your own dog food" (using the systems you develop within your own company) which lighten what can be a tedious book to read.
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