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Netscape does some platform diving

This week, Netscape drove home its cross-platform gospel, announcing new versions of its browser that will operate on OS/2 and Macintosh, as well as pagers, Network Computers, and TV sets.

This week, Netscape Communications drove home its cross-platform gospel, announcing new versions of its browser that will operate on OS/2 and Macintosh, as well as pagers, Network Computers, and television sets.

At a press conference, Netscape (NSCP) confirmed its plans to offer a native version of Navigator for IBM's OS/2 Warp operating system, the latest in string of efforts to create software for platforms other than the predominant Windows operating system.

The company said yesterday that it would offer a new version of its market-leading Navigator browser to work with Apple Computer's CyberDog suite of Net applications for the Macintosh. And Monday, Netscape announced the formation of Navio, a spin-off company that will make versions of Navigator for all non-PC platforms.

Navigator for OS/2 Warp will go into limited beta testing in September and is expected to ship to users in the fourth quarter.

Initially, Netscape will port Navigator 2.02 to OS/2 Warp and not version 3.0, the latest release of the browser, which shipped earlier this month. That will leave OS/2 Warp users without the faster Java support capabilities available on other platforms.

Both companies said they expect the next major release of Navigator, code-named Galileo, to be available for OS/2 at the same time it ships for other operating systems.

IBM is planning to release a new version of OS/2, version 4.0, in late September. Initially, it will not bundle Navigator code with version 4.0, but it will include a Netscape icon for easy downloading, IBM said.

Users of the new operating system will be able to navigate the Web using OS/2 Warp 4.0's built-in speech recognition capibilities, IBM said.

Today's announcement of a 32-bit native version of Navigator for OS/2 broadens Netscape's support for non-Windows PCs and could strengthen the company's position in the corporate marketplace, where OS/2 is strongest, though it is still a small segment compared with Windows.

"One of the reasons we're a good partner for IBM is that we've demonstrated an ability to deliver products simultaneously across platforms," said Bob Lisbonne, vice president of client product marketing at Netscape.

Navigator for OS/2 could also give the ailing system a boost. With about 14 million users, OS/2's installed base has grown but hasn't made significant headway against Windows.

"OS/2 is alive and well," said Wally Casey, vice president of client product management for personal software products at IBM. "We appreciate the vote of confidence from our friends at Netscape."

Company officials would not discuss whether IBM was paying Netscape to port Navigator to OS/2 Warp.

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