The service, to be available in the third quarter, will combine Netscape's existing groupware software, acquired last year through a purchase of groupware producer and Lotus competitor Collabra Software and CompuServe's network hosting and management services.
The deal reflects Netscape's increasing focus on intranet solutions. Netscape has married Collabra's groupware technology with its Navigator browser, hoping to meet the growing demand for Web-based groupware. CompuServe will bring its capability to maintain what it calls server "farms" that establish those intranets for companies that don't want to maintain their own IP networks.
The Netscape venture will be aimed at customers who want a turnkey solution, a way to out-source networks based on IP networking protocols. "If someone wants a private, secure, IP-based system plus true groupware functionality they aren't going to get it anywhere else," CompuServe spokesman Andy Boyer said.
CompuServe already hosts a similar dial-up service for Notes users and will continue to do so. "By no means are we going to ditch our Notes service," Boyer said. "Our Notes-based hosting service is going full throttle."
But while CompuServe tries to remain neutral, Netscape is definitely gearing up to compete with Notes. "It provides the flexibility that Notes does not," says Netscape spokeswoman Jennifer O'Mahony. "We will have some things that Notes doesn't have, and Notes will have some things that we won't have."
Netscape perceives its advantage as cost savings associated with using open IP-based networking instead of a proprietary network. "Today, the cost of setting up an intranet using Netscape technology is more cost-effective than it is with Notes," she says. "I would expect that to carry over."
Many companies are trying to do that calculation right now. According to a recent Global IT survey conducted by market research firm International Data Corporation, 36 percent of U.S. businesses view internal web servers as alternatives to groupware products, such as Lotus Notes, while 37 percent do not, and 27 percent aren't sure yet.