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Netscape, Concentric show hospitality

Netscape and Concentric Network announce a Web hosting service that gives individuals and small businesses an online presence.

Netscape Communications and (NSCP) and Concentric Network want a chunk of the largely untapped market for connecting small businesses to the Internet.

The Internet software player and access service provider signed a deal today to jointly offer a new Net hosting service that will cater to the internal--or intranet--needs of smaller operations which still need collaborative software tools.

The service aims to fill the gap between large enterprise requirements and nontechnical, small-business needs by offering a service for organizations that want to establish an online presence, but don't want the expense of buying, installing, and maintaining their own server hardware and software.

"We think it's a great business for us and Concentric," said Mike Homer, executive vice president of marketing for Netscape. "This is a totally unserved market."

Through the service, called Netscape Virtual Office by Concentric, users can establish email accounts, private and public Web sites, and discussion forums.

The service, which is planned to debut in August, will be advertised on the front door of Netscape's Web site, one of the busiest sites on the Internet. Internal Netscape research indicates that more than half of the 60 million users of the company's software are working in small businesses, the effort's target market.

According to Henry Nothhaft, president and CEO of Concentric, the deal was possible because Netscape and Concentric share a common vision of where collaboration tools and hosting services are headed.

No specific pricing was announced, but officials from both companies said the model would follow pricing for public hosting services, with add-on charges for office members accessing the service. Public hosting services typically cost anywhere from $30 to $100 per month. But the Netscape Virtual Office by Concentric may cost more as it includes intranet capabilities and customization features, according to company officials.

Netscape officials said the service would be accessible through other Web browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, but the service features will be optimized for Communicator, the Netscape's latest desktop browser and collaboration release.