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After the browser battle, the server war

Microsoft releases a beta version of Internet Information Server 3.0 to compete with Netscape's growing Windows NT server family.

On Monday, Microsoft (MSFT) will release a beta version of Internet Information Server 3.0 to compete with Netscape Communications' (NSCP) growing Windows NT Internet server family.

But users will have to wait a bit longer for the next major revision of Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer 4.0. Company officials said today that a public beta version of the browser will not appear next week during the company's Site Builder conference for Web developers in San Jose, California.

The browser could show up at another Microsoft developers' conference in early November, but company executives today would say only that they plan to offer a beta by the end of the year.

While the rivalry between the two companies has hinged mostly on their browsers for the past several months, Microsoft hopes to toughen up its IIS Web server to better compete with Netscape's Enterprise and FastTrack servers.

The cornerstone of IIS 3.0, which will be available Monday on the Web, is a technology called Active Server Pages (formerly code-named Denali). The technology provides developers with a framework for creating server-side applications in any scripting language, including JavaScript and VB Script. Comparable to browser-side ActiveX controls, which add jazz to Web page layouts, a Denali application can, for example, assemble Web page data "on the fly" from a database.

Microsoft will also ship a Java Virtual Machine with ship IIS 3.0, a capability that has been embedded in Netscape's Web servers for months. The company said that it is also bundling several existing Microsoft servers with IIS 3.0, including the NetShow multimedia streaming server, FrontPage 97 server extensions, and the search engine Index Server 1.1.

All of the servers run on Windows NT Server. Microsoft said it will ship a final version of IIS 3.0 in the fourth quarter of this year or by the first quarter of next year. It plans to bundle them into Windows NT Server at no extra cost.

Microsoft isn't only focusing its Web server efforts on Windows NT, though. Earlier this week, the company posted its Personal Web Server for Windows 95 on its Web site.

On Monday, the company will also ship the final version of its Proxy Server 1.0, code-named Catapult. Proxy Server is designed to reduce network congestion by storing copies of Web sites, including ActiveMovie, RealAudio, and NetShow files, locally on internal networks.