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It's the battle of the browsers as Microsoft Corp. and Netscape both have rolled out version 3.0 of their Internet World Wide Web browsers.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer launched with the company offering prizes to the first 10,000 to register the free program.Netscape rolled out on Monday. It costs $49, but you're on the honor system to send in the dough.

Microsoft launched first in an effort to topple Netscape from its grasp of 80 percent of the marketplace for browsers.

The winners in all this are Internet users. Clearly these new programs, at 4 megs in size and up, are better than the browsers we're now using. They have mail and news functions, better security and more features.

But don't pony up to the bar with less than 12 megs of RAM for decent operation with these beasts. More RAM means faster performance. The first versions also are aimed at Windows 95, Windows NT and Mac OS users, too.

My suggestion, if you have 10 megs of disk space to burn, is to install them both. Try them both on your favorite Web sites. Then either keep them both or keep the one you like.

So how do you upgrade or install these new programs?

Visit the Web sites (http://www.microsoft.com/ie/) and (http://www.netscape.com) and select the download button. Fill out the information about your computer, the operating system you use and in some cases your name and E-mail address.

Then hit download. Expect these sites to be busy, especially during the day. If you get a server error message, hit your browser's "RELOAD" or "REFRESH" button and keep trying.

When you succeed, you'll be asked if you want to OPEN the file or SAVE it to disk. If you plan to install it right away, hit OPEN and go eat dinner. When the entire file arrives, the installation routine will start.

If you hit SAVE AS, you need to click on the file later to install it.

Unless you have a compelling reason not to, accept the default directories for the installation and let it do its thing.

Your older version of the program should be removed automatically, but your old bookmark file should remain intact. (If it asks to keep your old NETSCAPE.INI settings, say yes.)

If you can't keep them both, use the UNINSTALL feature of the one you don't like once you've made up your mind.

- CALL OF THE WEEK: In an effort to keep Apple in business (and stave off anti-trust lawyers), Microsoft has launched an effort to help small software companies write Internet programs for Apple.

Microsoft already is the leading supplier of software for the Mac but this shift contrasts with Microsoft's previous targeting of the Mac as its Enemy No. 1.

The Wall Street Journal reported Don Bradford, a respected Macintosh programmer hired to run the Microsoft group, has marching orders to "help make sure that Apple's market share stays between 8 and 11 percent." Apple's worldwide market share has now fallen to 5.7 percent by some measures.

Mark Kriegsman, president of ClearWay Technologies in Boston, said while talking to Microsoft he kept asking himself, "How would this conversation be any different if I was talking to Satan?"

"They're saying `I'm your friend, here's some money, but don't worry, we'll figure out later how you can help me'," Kriegsman said.

- NEWSGROUP PICK: "alt.games.duke3d" for tips and tricks about Duke Nukem 3D.

- WEEKLY WEB WONDER: The Wacky Patent of the Month, (http://colitz.com/site/wacky.htm)