Yesterday I ran across a news headline that made me feel like I had gone . back to the future. Apparently, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) PCs and notebooks will come equipped with Netscape software early next year. Upon seeing the headline, I had to fight off an involuntary urge to double-check the date on the article. (Okay, I admit it, I did look.)

Many of you probably remember the browser wars of yore, when Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator faced off for market share. (If you haven't been paying attention, Netscape is now owned by Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), having been purchased by America Online after succumbing to Microsoft's might.)

Internet Explorer has enjoyed many years of ubiquity since it won its war of wills with Netscape. More recently, though, the mighty Microsoft has developed a number of chinks in its armor, mainly pertaining to security flaws. That's one reason why upstarts like Mozilla's Firefox have gained a loyal following. (Remember Firefox's grassroots push last fall? Well, its growth seems to be faltering just a year later.) The Opera browser kicks up its heels every once in a while. And of course, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has its own browser, Safari, that it surely hopes users of its Macintosh operating system will prefer over some of the alternatives.

This deal lets Netscape prove that it's still an option. The latest version of Netscape's browser includes many security features, including some to help people avoid the unpleasantness of phishing and spyware, which of course seems a direct offensive move towards Microsoft. Then again, Netscape, which shares some code with Firefox, has a feature that automatically switches over to Internet Explorer for certain sites; for some Internet destinations, Explorer remains the only way to go.

Netscape is striking at a time when people have begun to realize they have browser options beyond Internet Explorer. Hewlett-Packard is still a force to be reckoned with, although it faces stiff competition from No. 1 PC maker and Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Dell (NASDAQ:DELL).

This is a positive step toward getting Netscape's name in lights again. However, it still faces a daunting challenge in gaining market share in a world where Internet Explorer remains the browser of choice for the vast -- and I mean vast -- majority of Internet surfers.

The browser wars continue:

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.