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Kit to cut Communicator costs

Netscape is testing a new version of an administration kit that will make it cheaper to manage Communicator.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) is beefing up a tool that promises to reduce the cost of installing and managing its browsers.

The company has been privately testing a new version of its Navigator administration kit for information systems managers called Mission Control, according to sources familiar with the project.

The sources say the company plans on shipping a final version around the time of its developer conference in mid-June in San Jose, California.

Hitting a theme already sounded by virtually every other major player in the high-tech industry, Netscape says it wants to reduce the cost of ownership of its products. That means making it easier to configure and manage Communicator from a central location so that technicians don't have to visit users at their workstations every time they have a browser problem.

The company already offers an administration kit for an older version of its Internet browser, Navigator. But this kit lets a manager configure preferences for Navigator only one time; after that, any changes must be made on each PC.

In contrast, Mission Control will allow managers to oversee the Communicator Professional edition on an ongoing basis. This will allow them to control such things as access to email and discussion servers, as well as which push technology channels can be received.

The $1,995 kit will also let managers automatically update Communicator Pro with plug-ins and other new software components. Communicator Pro is a version of Netscape's Internet client suite that includes software allowing access to host computers and calendar servers.

Netscape's chief Internet rival, Microsoft, also offers a toolkit for IS managers called the Internet Explorer Administration Kit. Dave Fester, a product manager at Microsoft, said today that the current, 3.0 version of the IEAK already gives IS managers the ability to configure the Microsoft Explorer browser on an ongoing basis.

Like Mission Control, the 4.0 version of IEAK will also let companies control those push channels users can receive. Version 4.0 is due out this summer, and may have an important advantage over Mission Control: It's free.

"They're doing huge catch-up work there," Fester said.