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Netscape opens intranet attack

Netscape makes its most serious gambit yet to tackle the growing intranet market, announcing a completely revamped browser and server lineup.

NEW YORK--Netscape Communications (NSCP) today made its most serious gambit yet to tackle the growing intranet market, announcing a completely revamped browser and server lineup that includes Navigator 4.0, a suite of client software called Netscape Communicator, and SuiteSpot 3.0.

The announcement came hours ahead of a comprehensive, all-day strategy session that Netscape is hosting for press and analysts via satellite in New York, London, and Mountain View, California, where Netscape is based. (To listen to a broadcast of the complete presentation from Netscape's Jim Barksdale, Marc Andreessen, and Eric Hahn, please see The future according to Netscape.)

Today's announcements represent a detailed outline of Netscape's product plans for the next year and its strategy for tapping into the lucrative corporate groupware market, an arena now dominated by Microsoft and Lotus Development. The announcements build upon a technical white paper released earlier this year in which the company divulged the names of its next-generation client and server products, code-named Galileo and Orion.

"This is Netscape's shot across the bow to marginalize Microsoft," said J. Neil Weintraut, partner with the venture capital firm Twenty-First Century Internet, based in Emeryville, California. Weintraut admitted that it would take time for Netscape software to replace Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, if ever. "It will take a year or so to evolve," he said.

The move by Netscape may also help the company, which has garnered huge market share and critical acclaim in the press, start to make serious money selling its software to corporate users. Citing a recent study which claims that IS users reaped huge returns on investments in Netscape software, Jim Barksdale, the company's CEO and president, said "we can now measure the impact of our products not in terms of column inches, but in terms of dollars."

Also today, Netscape announced that it will hand over the specification for the JavaScript language to ECMA, a Geneva, Switzerland-based standards body. The move is seen as yet another salvo in the continuing war of words between Netscape and Microsoft as each vendor attempts to position itself as more "open" than the other. Microsoft placed its own ActiveX component specification into the hands of the The Open Group several weeks ago, and has claimed that JavaScript is a closed, proprietary technology.

Netscape executives said ECMA was chosen over several other well-known standards organizations, including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). "The W3C felt they had enough on their plate," said Jeff Treuhaft, Netscape's director of security products. Netscape will post the specification for JavaScript to its Web site in the coming weeks, he added.

Today, Netscape said it would introduce in the first quarter of 1997 a suite of client software called Netscape Communicator, formerly code-named Galileo, that comes with improved collaboration and messaging features aimed directly at the corporate intranet market.

The new software suite will come with five key components, the core of which is Navigator 4.0, a new version of the company's browser. Navigator 4.0 will come with "absolute positioning" of elements on a Web page, layering, and style sheets, new HTML fonts for authoring, and support for Netscape ONE (open network environment) features such as the Internet Inter-ORB Protocol.

Netscape plans to submit absolute positioning, along with another extension called layering, to the W3C as proposed extensions to the HTML standard, the company said. Layering defines how Web designers can layer text and graphics on top of each other.

Netscape will also combine an improved email client called Netscape Messenger in the Communicator suite. Messenger will offer features not included its existing integrated email client in Navigator, including better offline browsing, filtering, and sorting. Messenger will also allow users to encrypt and digitally sign email and to look up other users' addresses using the Lightweight Directory Protocol.

Netscape said it will support ActiveX natively in Windows 95 versions of Navigator and Communicator. "We are trying to protect existing investments. There are many OLE controls that people have already built," said Treuhaft.

Communicator also comes with Netscape Collabra, an overhauled discussion group client that will allow users to collaborate in public and private discussion forums. Collabra includes enhanced discussion group access controls, HTML editing tools for posting Web documents to discussion groups, and search tools.

Netscape will offer a new edition of its Navigator Gold HTML editing tool, called Netscape Composer, with support for Java applets, a built-in spell-check function, and easier publishing to Web servers. The company will also introduce Netscape Conference, a reworked version of its CoolTalk Internet telephone and conferencing program that adds supports for the H.323 conferencing standard, and the ability to dial by email or Internet Protocol address.

Netscape will bundle the new components into a $49 Standard Edition of Communicator. A higher-priced $79 Professional Edition will include a scheduling application called Netscape Calendar, which uses the Versit Consortium's vCalendar standard. The Professional Edition will also come with Netscape AutoAdmin, an administration kit that allows MIS professionals to centrally install plug-ins on client workstations.

A limited beta program for Communicator will begin next month, aimed at IS users and origianl equipment manufacturers. The company also hopes to hand out beta versions of the software here at their developer's conference. Shipment is slated for the first quarter of next year.

Netscape also said it will ship a new version of its SuiteSpot client-server software for Web-based groupware applications in the first quarter of next year.

Netscape said SuiteSpot 3.0 will include six new additions, including: Netscape Messaging Server 3.0, an LDAP-based messaging engine; the company's Collabra Server 3.0 discussion server that allows for encrypted collaboration and information sharing; Netscape Enterprise Server 3.0, a Web publishing server; Netscape Proxy Server 2.5 proxy software for replicating and filtering traffic; Netscape Calendar Server 1.0 for group scheduling; and Netscape Media Server 1.0 streaming audio server software consistent with the Real Time Streaming Protocol.

The company said it has also upgraded servers included in the earlier version of SuiteSpot. They are Netscape Directory Server 1.0, an online directory server; Netscape Catalog Server 1.0; Netscape Certificate Server 1.0, which allows for digital identification and encryption of information traveling on the Internet and corporate intranets; and the LiveWire Pro 1.0 Web development tool.

With SuiteSpot 3.0, customers can choose to buy individual servers for $995 apiece, or a bundle of any five will cost $3,995 and the company will throw in the LiveWire Pro Web development software for free.