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Netscape add-ons work remotely

The company discloses its timetable to give Navigator 4.0 users email and calendar capabilities for the new standalone browser.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) today disclosed its timetable to give Navigator 4.0 users email and calendar capabilities.

The company's new standalone Navigator browser, announced earlier this week, won't come with an email client or a scheduler. Instead, Navigator 4.0 users will have to connect remotely to a Netscape server if they want to use the browser to check in.

Except for the reliance on Netscape server software, it's the same concept that HTML-based email services like Hotmail employ. In fact, the email and calendar information will be accessible from any standard browser, including Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Given that email is the killer app of the Internet, a new version of Navigator without email features could have been an inconvenience for users accustomed to email-browser integration. The remote access solution, although wedded to Netscape products on the back end, addresses that problem.

The software that allows for this remote access will be built in two pieces. Calendar Express works with Netscape's Calendar Server and is scheduled to be available for downloading in a few weeks. The Messenger Express email add-on to the company's Messaging Server is not as far along. It will enter beta in a few weeks and ship later this year. Both will allow remote access to what product manager Karen Smith called "simple but fully featured" personal email or scheduling information through any standard browser.

All the email and calendar information will be stored on the server and will not be downloaded to the user's hard drive.

Netscape decided to offer the stripped-down Navigator 4.0--which at 7.5MB includes the all-Java Netcaster "tuner" software but not the email or newsreader clients that previous Navigators have included--to give users the option to forgo the 14MB Communicator suite.

The company also shipped the standalone browser to appease industry partners who usually bundle Navigator with their software. The prime example is Lotus Development, whose Lotus Notes groupware will ship with Navigator 4.0 now that the browser is no longer integrated with Communicator's groupware components. Nonetheless, Netscape executives contended that they will continue to offer Communicator as Notes competition.

"One big win for us are [companies] with older versions of Lotus Notes," said Communicator product manager Daniel Claussen. "Notes is an all-or-nothing decision and very expensive."