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New Netscape mantra: Extranets

Warming up for this week's DevCon developers' conference, Netscape readies its extranet pitch and posts the final version of Communicator.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) hopes to convince developers this week that extranets are key to corporate communications and that its brand-new Communicator provides the key to the extranet.

As a prelude to its third developer conference, which opens Wednesday, Netscape today posted a final version of its Communicator Internet client software for Windows on the Internet. The product is scheduled for official release on Wednesday. This version lacks the company's Netcaster push technology software, but Netscape today also released a second beta version of Netcaster.

The final version of Communicator for Windows 95, NT, and Windows 3.1 is available on the company's FTP site or at CNET's DOWNLOAD.COM. Preview release 2 of Netcaster is also available on Netscape's FTP site or DOWNLOAD.COM.

Edith Gong, Communicator product manager at Netscape, said today that this final version of Communicator resolved some stability issues in the software.

Netscape has traditionally used its DevCon shows both to hawk its latest software and to provide a bully pulpit for what the company sees as the latest trend in network communications. This week's conference in San Jose, California, will be no exception.

Previously, the company has extolled the benefits of intranets for corporations that want to streamline internal messaging, group collaboration, and networked applications.

On Wednesday, Marc Andreessen, senior vice president of technology, is expected to outline a "road map" for Netscape technology that will focus on extranets. Extranets are essentially intranets belonging to separate companies that are linked over the Internet or a private network.

Netscape will also release a white paper this week that expands upon the themes in Andreessen's keynote.

The company won't unfurl its product road map to the press until tomorrow but the announcements are likely to involve the company's next generation of client and server products, code-named Mercury and Apollo, respectively.

Building support among developers for its new products is vital to Netscape's future. The company's rival, Microsoft (MSFT), is integrating Internet client and server technology into the Windows 95 and NT operating systems, two platforms that already have a hard-core developer following.

Netscape has made much of the fact that it is shipping its Communicator and SuiteSpot servers this week, seemingly well ahead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 and Internet Information Server 4.0 (formerly called K2) technologies. Explorer 4.0 is slated to ship by the end of the summer; the product has appeared only in a preliminary beta version intended for developer, not public, use.

Microsoft's IIS 4.0 will go into public beta testing in the first half of the summer and will ship by the end of the year, said Jonathan Perera, lead product manager at Microsoft.

This week, Netscape plans to announce partnerships with a number of other software companies, including the following:

  • VeriSign will announce the availability of Digital IDs tomorrow that work with the new object signing capability in Communicator. With Digital IDs--VeriSign's digital certificate technology--users can verify that Java or JavaScript code comes from a trusted software publisher.

  • Open Text and Netscape will announce plans to bundle Open Text's Livelink document management software with Netscape's servers. Livelink will include a license for up to ten users.