"It's the right thing to do. Communicator is 20 megs. For a corporate customer using Communicator it's small, but for someone just using Navigator, it takes up a lot of space," a source said.
Netscape has not disclosed pricing details or said when the separate Navigator will be made available. But sources said the independent browser would be made available to all parties.
That would be consistent with statements from Netscape earlier this month that the company has looked at the issue and would treat all channels alike.
When contacted today, Netscape refused to confirm or deny that Navigator would be separated from Communicator. However, the company told CNET's NEWS.COM last week that it was considering such a move for the "next generation" of its Internet software.
Netscape executive vice president Mike Homer plans to make a significant company announcement Monday, but company representatives declined to comment on the topic of the briefing.
Sources also indicated that the separated Navigator would not include email software. Both Navigator 2.0 and 3.0 shipped with mail clients.
A separate Navigator is something of a Hobson's choice for Netscape. Separating the browser ameliorates parties that just want a Web viewer, as well as equipment manufacturers that do not want to bundle the entire software package in their computers. IBM subsidiary Lotus Development has vociferously stated its demands for a separate Navigator all this year. Lotus has said it wants to unbundle the browser because the other Communicator elements, notably the Collabra groupware application, compete with Lotus Notes.
On the other hand, by unbundling Navigator, Netscape has to find ways to justify charging customers for a stand-alone browser. Microsoft charges nothing for Internet Explorer. Netscape chief executive James Barksdale, among others, has admitted that part of the reason Netscape bundled Navigator with other applications was to get away from competing against Microsoft.
If an unbundled Navigator becomes too popular, the thinking goes, it could create a hole in Netscape's revenue stream. Currently, close to half of Netscape's revenues come from client applications.
Even so, analysts have also said that the Netscape brand name is strong enough to allow the company to charge, even for a stand-alone browser. Also, the company's efforts to earn revenue from services and space on its Web site appear to be succeeding, according to one financial analyst.
"Their site is becoming a destination site," said Abi Gami, an analyst with Nesbitt Burns Securities.