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Communicator out for Mac, Unix

Mac, Unix, and Windows 3.11 beta versions of Netscape's Communicator arrive, but without Netcaster push technology.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) may not waste any affection on Microsoft (MSFT), but Windows 95 and NT are still at the top of its development checklist.

Over the weekend, the company posted a new version of its Communicator Internet client, called preview release 5, for the other platforms on its list, Windows 3.11 and Macintosh. A Unix beta is supposed to follow later today.

The preview release 5 of Communicator adds several features, including support for the Internet Mail Access Protocol 4 (IMAP4) to help mobile email users; Secure/MIME for exchanging email securely; and dynamic HTML, which spices up the design and interactivity of Web pages.

Although the Mac, Unix, and Windows 3.11 versions of Communicator are catching up with those already available for Windows 95 and NT, they are still missing one highly touted component: Netcaster, Netscape's "push" technology. Daniel Klaussen, a group product manager at Netscape, said today that the company didn't want to hold back releasing a new version of Communicator just because Netcaster wasn't finished yet.

"Internally, we've got Netcaster running great on Mac," Klaussen said. "But our focus externally is that it's running great on [Windows 95 and NT]. Rest assured that it is running cross-platform."

Netscape considers its support for multiple operating systems--it says it develops for more than 16--to be a key strategic advantage over Microsoft, which is overwhelmingly focused on Windows 95 and NT development. But Netscape's development schedule, too, heavily favors Windows 95 and NT, the hottest-selling operating systems today.

Important features, such as Java or support for new Internet protocols, often come weeks or months later for Mac, Unix, and Windows 3.11 than for Windows 95 and NT browsers.

Still, the company has been shaving time off the delay between versions of its browser.

Klaussen said Netscape will release a separate Netcaster component for Mac, Unix, and Windows 3.11 within the next two weeks. The company released Netcaster for Windows 95 and NT to the public last week. It plans to ship final versions of Communicator, as well as its SuiteSpot 3.0 servers, for all platforms in June.

Today Klaussen would not say whether the company will have the products ready to ship by its developer conference, June 11 to 13, but he said "We would certainly like to have things available earlier rather than later in the month."

Microsoft has also been trying to accelerate its cross-platform development. The company recently released a new Mac version of Explorer 3.01 that incorporates features that were originally planned for Explorer 4.0 for the Mac.

But the Unix version of Explorer hasn't fared as well. Microsoft recently posted a statement on its Web site explaining that it would not release a 3.0 version of its browser for Unix but instead would skip to a 4.0 version. That version is due out in beta by the end of this year.

The preview release 5 betas can be downloaded from Netscape's FTP site or from CNET's DOWNLOAD.COM.

Netscape also posted preview release 5 betas for Windows 95 and NT over the weekend, although the new version is not radically different from that posted on May 7.