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Novell presses on with Java

Vowing to become a standard bearer of open Internet protocols, Novell renews its commitment to Java-enable its GroupWise groupware engine.

Vowing to become a standard bearer of open Internet protocols, Novell (NOVL) today renewed its commitment to Java-enable its GroupWise groupware engine.

In a wide-ranging strategy announcement, Novell said it will spend the next 12 months adding Internet and intranet features to its collaborative software. The company said it will deliver on the first stage of those enhancements early next year when the company endows its WebAccess client software with new Java support so that users can perform a variety of groupware tasks while using any standard Web browser. Later next year, Novell will build a new Java client for the groupware package.

Joyce Graf, an analyst with Gartner Group, said the pledge puts Novell in an attractive position with companies that are looking for a way to tap the new features of GroupWise 5 without having to upgrade from proprietary client software. The tools may also appeal to users of network computers as an easy way to access GroupWise.

"It's both a retrospective and forward-looking move," said Graf.

She said the enhancements illustrate Novell's hustle to build Java components and native Internet support for its groupware. The company has already pledged support for POP3, IMAP4, S-MIME, NNTP, and LDAP Internet protocols and plans to add more to the list next year.

Novell, which has faltered this year as changes in top management hurt the company's momentum, is neck-and-neck with the competition as it races to Internet-enable its groupware. The company is facing tested competitors Lotus Development, Microsoft, and a legion of Web-based software developers, principally Netscape Communications.

Analysts have predicted that by mid-1997, companies that aim to survive must offer a mix of rich features and Internet interoperability.

Graf said Novell's strategy will keep the company in the game, yet she said dreams of market dominance are all but over for the company.

GroupWise today enjoys third place in the U.S. groupware market behind Microsoft Exchange and market leader Lotus Notes. Analysts have frequently predicted that GroupWise will likely fall to fourth place once Netscape comes to market with its SuiteSpot and Communicator groupware early next year.

"They are going to continue to have a nice following among their installed base" of 7 million users, Graf predicted. But, she added, "the company that will come out short [as the market reconfigures next year] is going to be Novell. They are going to fall to fourth place."