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Mustang focuses on Essentials

Fighting to rebuild after a disastrous 1996, Mustang will introduce a line of software add-ons to make Microsoft's Web server easier to use.

Mustang Software (MSTG), fighting to rebuild after a disastrous 1996, said today it will introduce a line of software add-ons to make Microsoft's basic Web server, Internet Information Server, easier to use and maintain.

The new line, Web Essentials, also includes software to boost the interactivity of Web sites running on Microsoft's NT-based Web server.

Mustang also hopes Web Essentials will perk up its financial performance; the company laid off employees in November after third-quarter revenues plummeted from $2.6 million in 1995 to $775,000 last year. It was founded in 1986 to market software to run online bulletin boards.

The first product in the line, ListServer, is based on features of Mustang's own Web server, Wildcat Interactive Net Server or WIN Server. ListServer, which has an SMTP/POP3 mail server, went into beta testing today.

"Webmasters want chat and conference messaging but want it on their existing IIS system," Scott Hunter, Mustang's vice president of engineering, said in a statement. "Sure, you can write your own apps, but who has the time? Our goal is to fill in the IIS's gaps with our own interactive applications and act as the intermediary between IIS and the Webmaster."

In addition to building the new product based on technology already in other Mustang products, the company will shave marketing and distribution costs by offering the software and documentation exclusively via downloads from its Web site rather than through its traditional channels.

The Web Essentials line will use ActiveX controls, Active Server Pages, and ODBC for linking to databases. Mustang's goal is to get the add-ons installed in less than ten minutes without any programming knowledge.

The new product line is designed to expand Mustang's target market and bring in new customers. The Netcraft survey of Web servers in use on the Net found 154,000 sites using Microsoft's IIS as of April 1, a figure growing as much as 14 percent each month.

Mustang plans additional titles that will work with NT Web servers from Netscape Communications, O'Reilly & Associates, and others.

The company did not disclose pricing but said users can get a 30-day demonstration version of the product for evaluation.