INTERNET 201

Microsoft Enters Web Publishing Market

P> For some time, I secretly harbored the fantasy that Bill Gates would run for president of the United States. His platform? If elected, to pay off the mortgage of every American homeowner. Instead, I now think he's likely to buy with Microsoft stock the entire Internet and every corporate boutique that's not nailed down. The only remaining question: When will he announce the purchase of Netscape Communications Corp.?


The latest foray of the software giant occurred yesterday with the purchase of Vermeer Technologies Inc. and its World Wide Web publishing tool, FrontPage (retail price around $695). The Cambridge, Mass., soon to be Redmond, Wash., company will develop what is to become the marquee product for the newest Microsoft division, Webtop Publishing.

According to the news release, the product allows you to easily create and manage "... rich Web documents without programming." Not surprisingly, the marketing approach is head-on: "FrontPage will become a key component of Microsoft's strategy to provide a full range of tools that put the power of Web publishing, for both the Internet and intranets, in the hands of the broadest range of computer users." By intranets, they mean Enterprise Internet protocols, sheltered or closed networks running the TCP/IP protocol.

Here's Microsoft's rationale. It views the Web market as three segments. First, there are the simple HTML editors such as HotDogPro, InContext Spider and its own Internet Assistant for Word. These programs help you create, that is, tag, pages intended for the Web with minimal effort. My guess is that easily 70 percent of all Web pages could get by with these editors.

The second segment is "Webtop Publishing." It's where FrontPage makes its entrance, and it's a term Vermeer apparently coined. Here the Web presence itself is seen as a document, that is, an interrelated set of pieces composed, for example, of straight text, CGI (common gateway interface) forms, image maps and tables. Such a presence requires management; that's the function of FrontPage. It's also the role of competitors such as WebSite 1.1, O'Reilly & Associates Inc.'s excellent product that has been out for some time. This segment attracts the attention of companies such as Netscape (Netscape Gold), Adobe (PageMill) and America Online (Navisoft).

The third segment is what Bill Gates refers to as "high-end, professional Web publishing systems," where creativity joins expertise in design and multimedia. Internet Studio is an offering in this segment.

Like competitive products, FrontPage is based on a client/server architecture that supports authoring, scripting and Web management from your desktop, across a corporate LAN or over the Internet. The client side is available for Windows; a Mac version will come later this year.

Among its features are FrontPage Editor to create and edit HTML pages, FrontPage Explorer to manage the Web site, WebBots to allow text searches, feedback forms and threaded discussion forums, Wizards to guide in creating pages and To Do List to track Web tasks that require completion.

The server side, known as Server Extensions, runs on Windows 95, Windows NT and UNIX.

You can read the details of the purchase on the Internet at Microsoft's home page (http://www.microsoft.com/) or receive them by e-mail (frontpg@microsoft.com).

John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. E-mail your tips to john@trainer.com; place "tips" in the subject line. His home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/ or http://www.trainer.com/pub/journalism/


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