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Netscape plans new Mac browser

Netscape plans to develop a new version of its Navigator browser with built-in support for Apple's Cyberdog and OpenDoc technologies.

Netscape Communications today moved to bolster its cross-platform appeal through a partnership with Apple Computer that will eventually produce a new version of Navigator to work with Apple's Cyberdog.

Cyberdog is based on Apple's OpenDoc, a framework for mixing and matching software components and Apple's answer to Microsoft's OLE (Object Linking and Embedding). Cyberdog delivers Internet client access to Macintosh users and provides a tighter integration of all the applications that make up the Internet user experience, according to Andy Lauta, a product manager at Apple.

When a user accesses the Internet they typically use several applications including a browser, an email and newsgroup client, RealAudio, Java applets, and plug-ins. Sometimes they don't work together or integrate well with PC operating systems, and Cyberdog was designed to solve that problem. "Cyberdog is all about getting these types of applications to work together in a more seamless way," said Lauta.

Some industry observers say that the combination of Cyberdog and Navigator may be a more effective tool than Navigator alone on either Macintosh or Windows. "Cyberdog is like an intelligent agent that fetches information against a specific profile and provides a pro-active experience in regard to data acquisition, as opposed to going out and having to look for data," said Rob Enderle, analyst with the Giga Information Group. "It moves the Netscape browser technology forward because you wouldn't expect this technology for another 6 to 12 months."

Apple will bundle the new browser, to be called Netscape Navigator for Cyberdog, with its Mac OS operating system and, of course, with its own preconfigured Macintosh desktops.

Netscape's endorsement of Cyberdog not only helps Apple set an industry standard for OpenDoc, but also rids the company of the necessity of designing another Web browser, according to Lauta.

"This deal is significant because it helps validate the Cyberdog technology that Apple is trying to bring to the market. Netscape's desire and acceptance to build on top of Cyberdog adds a certain amount of strength to this technology, which is one of the few technologies out there that uses OpenDoc," said Enderle.

Lauta did not specify a release date for the new browser.

Working well on platforms other than Windows is one of Netscape's chief competitive advantages with rival Microsoft, although Microsoft also has plans to make a Macintosh version of its Explorer is scheduled to enter beta testing next month and ship by the end of the year.

Internet Explorer is likely to work with Cyberdog in the near future, but Apple officials would not be specific. "We're very excited with the fact that Microsoft is very robustly supporting Macintosh with their Internet products, and this is something we've talked about but we're not prepared to make any announcements," said Lauta.