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Web Innovation Panel Talks up Microsoft Net Rivalry

SAN FRANCISCO--You can look at the battle pitting Microsoft against Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and others as yet another scrap between those who view computing as desktop-centric and those who see it as network-centric, according to panelists here at a late-afternoon Web Innovation session yesterday.

In the final analysis however, the Internet is Net-centric and will end up dominated by open standards born from the roots of the Unix community, boasted officials from SGI, BBN Planet, and others at the session. "It's clear that there are two camps emerging--there's Microsoft and then there's everyone else," commented Cliff Conneighton, vice president of marketing for BBN Planet.

In light of the coming battle, the announcement by SGI, Sun, and Netscape to agree on 3D extensions to Netscape Navigator takes on new significance, said Conneighton, who added that IBM will probably fall in with the backers of Java. About Microsoft, though, Conneighton said, "I don't think Microsoft is going to join it [and back Java]. I don't think it's in their makeup."

One former Microsoft executive on the panel, however, said it's too soon to tell where Microsoft will end up in the battle for Net development supremacy. "Microsoft has said publicly that they'll look into supporting Java," said Rob Glaser, president and CEO of Progressive Networks. Microsoft has pledged support for Progressive Networks' RealAudio technology, which is already in wide use.