Worried push vendors press Microsoft and Netscape on what role small firms will play once push technology is built into the two biggest browsers.
"We push vendors are being subsumed by Netscape and Microsoft. We are becoming ground zero," said Tim Gelinas, vice president of engineering at Datachannel, an intranet-oriented push company. "How do Microsoft and Netscape intend to bring in third parties? I don't see where other small push companies have a play."
Both Netscape and Microsoft voiced assurances to vendors at the "push summit" portion of technology conference Internet Showcase. "We want to provide structure so third parties can plug in," said Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, group program manager for Internet Explorer 4.0.
Belfiore suggested push players can plug in either by becoming content providers/aggregators a la PointCast, or by developing additional technology to help everyone's pushed content do more and better.
"People will be able to add value just as they add value today," concurred Netscape's Mike McCue, director of advanced client technology. "We have done nothing to shut out folks."
Not everyone was convinced. "[Netscape and Microsoft] are both friends and foes," said Sandy Goldman, vice president, consumer group for Wavetop, a wireless push company that targets home PC users. "You have to work with them and compete with them. In our case, they don't have a data broadcast solution."
David Rose, chairman and CEO of Airmedia, another wireless company but one with a hardware device Microsoft used in its demo, embraced the giants. "They are very much friends. We've got to get away from thinking of them as the dark side; they are providing infrastructure. As a service like us, you don't compete with Microsoft or Netscape."
Richard Schwartz, chairman and chief technology officer of Diffusion, which positions itself as a pusher for extranets in the business-to-business market, also welcomed the big players.
"The more, the better," he said, admitting that in recent months his company repositioned itself to be "closer to a business application, not a tool or a platform.
"With respect to Internet Explorer and Navigator, those initiatives and the strategies around them are very complementary. As the market evolves, we'll see what happens," Schwartz added.
Tony Davis, CEO/president of Lanacom, talked up its niche strategy focused on intranets. "As independent software vendors, you always have to stay one step ahead. You always have to innovate, stay ahead, and go after what they are not."
Maureen Fleming, senior research analyst at Gartner Group, warned all push companies that to date, they have created, not solved, problems for IT departments.
"Push publishers are causing an annoyance for the enterprise, so they are part of the problem. The revenue opportunity is to support IT at the server level to solve the problem that push created," she said.
Netscape's McCue underlined the advantages to IT managers of using the "Web top" technology in its Constellation browser: deploying a single interface across their enterprises regardless of operating systems while cutting training costs.
In an informal straw poll of attendees after the Microsoft and Netscape presentations, 46 percent said Microsoft has the best push strategy, 26 percent said Netscape, and the remainder voted for "other."
CNET's Rex Baldazo contributed to this report.