Tech Industry

Netscape puts BeOS on FastTrack

Netscape is porting its FastTrack Web server to the BeOS. But why?

Tiny Be is about to get a boost from Netscape Communications (NSCP).

At the Be Developer Conference tomorrow in Santa Clara, California, the company--led by former Apple Computer executive Jean-Louis Gassee--will announce that Netscape is adapting its FastTrack Web server for the BeOS, the company confirmed today. Marc Andreessen, senior vice president of technology at Netscape, will also lend a hand to Be by delivering a keynote at the conference.

Although the endorsement of a marquee name software developer like Netscape might make BeOS more attractive to some users, it's unlikely that it will expand the platform beyond the current small group of techno-enthusiasts. First shown in August 1995, the BeOS still has not been released to the public. A company spokesman, Mark Gonzalez, estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 developers are using BeOS.

"I think FastTrack will make BeOS more popular," said Rob Enderle, a senior industry analyst with Giga Information Group. "Is it a killer app? No. Be has got to find a way to build credibility for their platform with a brand."

Be has long touted BeOS has an ideal platform for Web servers because of its multitasking and multithreading capabilities. The developer release of BeOS comes with a personal Web server, but it is not geared toward running large Web sites.

For Netscape, a BeOS-version of FastTrack probably won't make much of a difference for its server sales, which accounted for 37 percent of its revenues last quarter. The move could help bolster its reputation for making its software available on the broadest array of platforms, especially platforms other than Microsoft's Windows 95 and NT.

Analysts said that Be is probably funding the port of FastTrack to BeOS just as IBM funded Netscape's port of Navigator to OS/2 Warp.

"They might get funded to do the port," Enderle said. "But they may not get enough revenue to make up for what these engineers could be doing on a higher-volume platform. They're spread pretty thin right now."

Be's Gonzalez declined to comment on the company's financial arrangements with Netscape. Netscape also declined to comment.

At the developer conference this weekend, Be will give attendees a CD-ROM containing a preliminary version of the final release of BeOS. The software is expected to be publicly available next month.