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Netscape puts BeOS on FastTrack

Netscape plans to adapt its Web server for the BeOS.

Be has garnered the support of its first big name software developer, Netscape Communications (NSCP), which said it will adapt its Web server for the BeOS.

As previously reported, Be--led by former Apple Computer executive Jean-Louis Gassee--said at its Be Developer Conference in Santa Clara, California, this weekend that it will work with Netscape to adapt its FastTrack Web server for the BeOS. The company said it will distribute the $295 FastTrack server on a CD-ROM that also contains the BeOS operating system.

Although the endorsement of a marquee name software developer like Netscape might make BeOS more attractive to some users, it's unlikely that it will expand the platform much beyond its current audience of hard-core programmers. First shown in August 1995, the BeOS still has not been released to the public. A company spokesman, Mark Gonzalez, estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 developers are using BeOS.

"I think FastTrack will make the BeOS more popular," said Rob Enderle, a senior industry analyst with Giga Information Group. "Is it a killer app? No. Be has got to find a way to build credibility for their platform with a brand."

Be has long said that the BeOS is an ideal platform for Web servers because of its multitasking and multithreading capabilities. The developer release of BeOS comes with a personal Web server, but it is not geared toward running large Web sites.

For Netscape, a BeOS-version of FastTrack probably won't make much of a difference for its server sales, which accounted for 37 percent of its revenues last quarter. The move could help bolster its reputation for making its software available on the broadest array of platforms, especially platforms other than Microsoft's Windows 95 and NT.

Analysts said that Be is probably funding the port of FastTrack to BeOS just as IBM funded Netscape's port of Navigator to OS/2 Warp.

"They might get funded to do the port," Enderle said. "But they may not get enough revenue to make up for what these engineers could be doing on a higher-volume platform. They're spread pretty thin right now."

Be's Gonzalez declined to comment on the company's financial arrangements with Netscape. Netscape also declined to comment.

At the developer conference last weekend, Be gave attendees a CD-ROM containing a preliminary version of the final release of BeOS. The software is expected to be publicly available next month.

Marc Andreessen, senior vice president of technology at Netscape, delivered a keynote at the conference.