The new version of Navigator comes during a busy week for IBM. On Wednesday, the company plans to introduce version 4.0 of OS/2 Warp, which will include a built-in Java engine and voice recognition capabilities.
Until now, IBM has relied on its own Web browser, WebExplorer, for its OS/2 operating system.
The OS/2 Warp version of Navigator does lag behind other versions of the browser. IBM and Netscape have produced Version 2.02 version of Navigator for OS/2, rather than the current 3.0 version available on Windows and Macintosh. The companies are codeveloping an OS/2 version of Navigator 4.0, code-named Galileo, which will be released in early 1997.
For IBM, the browser is important because it is one of the only major desktop applications to be ported to OS/2 in a long time. Navigator also meshes with IBM's recent focus on adding Internet features to its operating system. For Netscape, Navigator for OS/2 Warp is another milestone in the expanding constellation of platforms supported by Netscape. The company prides itself on supporting more operating systems than its chief rival in the browser market, Microsoft. OS/2 has about 14 million users.
Through a spin-off company called Navio Communications, Netscape also hopes to establish a toehold in the emerging market for Web browsers on video game systems, network computers, and other platforms that aren't PCs.
As Netscape spends its development energies developing for more and more platforms, some analysts wonder whether Netscape will be able to keep pace with innovations by Microsoft, which is focused primarily on Windows 95 and NT.
"Every platform Netscape picks up adds a certain amount of overhead to their development," said Rob Enderle, senior industry analyst at market research firm Giga Information Group. "If Microsoft can stay ahead on the volume platform, over time they'll be able to get more market share."
Microsoft is stepping up its own efforts to develop Internet Explorer for non-Windows platforms and could run into the same development issues as Netscape. Microsoft has stated publicly, however, that new Macintosh, Unix, and even Windows 3.1 versions of Explorer will lag behind Windows 95 and NT versions of the browser.