HP will ship Netscape's Web browser as standard on new PCs from early next year, the computer giant has announced.

Netscape 8.0 browser will appear on all HP computers in the US and Canada, with links both in the Start menu and on the desktop of Windows XP. Users will also be able to make the browser their default choice when setting up the computer.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser currently dominates the market, but Netscape developed the first Web browser to enjoy widespread adoption. Now part of AOL, Netscape has continued to develop its browser as an alternative to the much-reported security flaws found in Explorer.

At one point in the 1990s, most PC companies shipped both browsers on their PCs. But Microsoft took the decision to integrate Explorer with Windows and started pressuring companies not to add or use Netscape, sparking one part of the anti-trust lawsuits taken out against the software giant.

"We think this is the first actual non-Explorer browser to be included on any [Windows] PC since the 1990s," said an HP spokesman.

Netscape 8.0 shares the same code base as the open-source Firefox browser, but it also uses rendering technology found within Explorer that Firefox does not, allowing Netscape users to view some Web pages that do not load fully in Firefox.

The browser comes with a list of trusted websites that require the Explorer rendering engine to deliver the best viewing experience, and automatically switches to that engine when they are visited. Netscape users can set the Explorer rendering engine as their default option, but would then be exposed to malicious code written to exploit it.

HP's PC group surveyed customers on their Web-browsing preferences, and enough of them expressed an interest in having a choice of default browsers for HP to move forward with the deal, said Nick Labosky, director of worldwide consumer PC beyond-the-box at HP. The company chose Netscape because of the dual rendering engines, he said.

HP admitted however that Netscape was also paying it to distribute the browser. He declined to give details.