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Netscape opens its arms

Netscape Communications is hosting a big development party this week in New York, but the industry is today still speculating on whether or not the most eagerly awaited guest will show up: Navigator 4.0.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) is hosting a big development party this week in New York, but the industry is today still speculating on whether or not the most eagerly awaited guest will show up: Navigator 4.0.

Company officials have hinted that Netscape would release a beta version of Galileo, the code name for Navigator 4.0, at its Internet Developers' Conference. Netscape watchers also expect the company to introduce Orion, the code name for Netscape's next generation of Internet server software. But official Netscape representatives won't commit the company either way.

The Galileo launch could turn out to be just a tantalizing tease to stir interest in an event that is expected to provide a glimpse into the company's future. But even if Galileo is a no-show, Netscape is sure to entice its growing ranks of developers with a host of new product announcements intended to acheive the company's overall aim: winning the hearts and minds of Internet and intranet developers.

"Netscape needs to position itself as the platform of choice," said Jerry Michalski, managing editor of industry newsletter Release 1.0. "They need to change people's minds of what a platform is. What's happening is an elaboration of the platform."

The company wants those developers to build applications based on key technologies promoted by Netscape such as JavaScript, Java, and Navigator plug-ins. This task is becoming more difficult as Microsoft (MSFT) incorporates those technologies into its own products.

Netscape's challenge is to stay cutting-edge with its implementation of those technologies, while remaining committed to one of the Internet's biggest buzzwords: openness.

Analysts say that recent initiatives such as the Netscape ONE (Open Network Environment) framework and the Internet Inter-ORB Protocol are attempts to stay open while simultaneously pitching the company's browser and server products as the best platform for running Internet and intranet applications.

"Netscape is taking a very open approach," said Michalski.

Nevertheless, developers may find the whole discussion anticlimactic if Galileo and Orion don't materialize in some form this week.

For the foreseeable future, Galileo and Orion are after all the twin pillars of Netscape's platform. Both are designed to bring users more advanced email, directory service, security, and collaboration capabilities than are currently available in Netscape's browser and server products, and both are aimed squarely at the lucrative corporate intranet market and

A host of third-party developers will also show off their wares at the conference this week, including:
--Applix will ship its Applix Anyware, a suite of Java applications that includes WebSheet, a client-server spreadsheet.
--WebCal will introduce an Internet-based calendar and scheduling application. The company will also announce EventCal, an intranet application for searching for events in over 700 categories by month, week, and day.
--Apple Computer will announce that NetObjects will support in its Fusion design product the HotSauce Meta Content Format, a proposed standard for creating 3D and other graphical views of Web sites.