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It was both. Free for download and available
off the shelf as a CD for those who didn't want to
download it (slow modems dominated the day then).
The other thing about that history: the seventies
and eighties were dominated by systems buys. It
isn't that software was given away for free as a
norm, it was that it was part of the price of a
systems buy. It still is. IE is free to download
but one first buys an MS-enabled system, and with that,
one can consider IE a part of the upgrade per the
licensing agreement. If one wants to get a different
browser, one can and many do. This is user-driven.
That is a different issue from developing applications
for a specific-browser. Most of us still do that
because browser interoperability is still weak. The
future of any standard such as XHTML is in the ability
of that standard to enhance cross-browser interoperability
while still maintaining application performance. No free lunch.
The history of platforms. The seachange was the introduction
of the standard hardware platform in the form of the
IBM PC. Up until then, one tended to focus the system
on a single hardware provider (eg, DEC minis, Vaxes,
etc.). As the PC grew in power in the 90s, focus
shifted away from single vendor procurements to
procurements in which the PC standard was cited, but
a single vendor (now Dell, Compaq, etc) was procured.
The norm now for us is that. If the customer wants
to procure their own hardware, we tell them the specs
they must meet. If they ask us to procure it, we
tell them which vendor we prefer. Mixed systems are
also not uncommon.
By far and away, the preferred operating system for the
PC is still MS Windows. That can change but what I see is
still in the systems sales. For example, rumor is that
CNN recently changed over to Linux on IBM platforms. The
cost break was good and so was the performance. So it
is not the open source that was attractive, but the overall
systems configuration. For large sales, I don't think
this has changed, but it is a market in which open source
is a viable option and is becoming more competitive. These
buyers don't care about the open source business model per
se because they don't see it. They go to a systems house
and buy from them based on their recommendations.
From: Joe English [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
I don't remember Netscape ever charging money for Navigator.
I certainly never paid for it. They may have licensed it to ISVs,
but it was always available to end users for free download.