Netscape Set to Move Beyond the Browser


Netscape Set to Move Beyond the Browser

New e-mail and groupware products will be rolled out in the next few months

By Shannon Henry
Staff Writer

The next frontier for Netscape Communications Corp., Mountain View, Calif., is groupware.

The World Wide Web browser king, fresh from its battle with Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp., is about to go head to head with IBM's Lotus Notes.

"The killer app coming up is groupware/e-mail," said Lee Love, director of strategic marketing for Netscape, at Washington Technology's Internet Summit Jan. 28.

In the coming months, said Love, Netscape will roll out new e-mail and groupware products that are graphically and technologically "as rich as the Web." Such products will do communications, messaging and calendaring, all fundamental collaborative work. Netscape will take it a step further by connecting companies. "It's not enough to have a Web site," said Love. "I want my accounting system to talk to your accounting system."

Already, the analysts are putting a positive spin on Netscape's new focus. The Gartner Group predicts Netscape will be No. 3 in the groupware market by 1999. Lotus Notes is currently in the No. 1 spot, holding 38 percent of the market, Gartner said. Microsoft's Exchange is at No. 2 with 31 percent.

Netscape recently released its fourth-quarter earnings, reporting $115.1 million in revenues and $8.8 million in net income - numbers that for the most part met with analysts' expectations.

Net income for all of 1996 was $20.9 million compared to a net loss of $6.6 million in 1995. Netscape attributed the growth to corporate Internet server sales.

Netscape's focus echoes much of what Internet executives are predicting will be a new emphasis on "sharing" over the Internet, another way of describing collaboration.

"The Internet is to me the world's biggest machine for sharing," said Chuck Davin, chief technology officer at PSINet, Herndon, Va., also at the conference. "It's shared business automation," he said.

Specifically, Netscape is introducing two categories of products. The first, called Communicator, is an extended version of Navigator, the company's flagship browser. It will include Navigator, as well as conference, messaging and collaboration capabilities, making it a groupware product. "You're doing more than just browsing - you're communicating," said Love.

The second category is servers, which will be called SuiteSpot 3.0. "Many people are not aware that Netscape makes servers," said Love. "We're building the infrastructure as well as the interface."

Additionally, these Netscape products will have "push technology," which brings customized information to an Internet user. Love calls this "the Third Wave of the Net."

There is already a whole cottage industry of information aggregators that sort through and catalog information on the Web. Much more efficient, he said, is to bring the right information to the right person.

A typical user might turn his computer on in the morning, it would greet him personally and offer an early version of his daily news updates based on professional and personal interests.

Mark Walsh, senior vice president of America Online, Dulles, Va., said business users and consumer users are becoming one in the same. What a person is able to do on the Internet at home he wants at work, and vice versa.

AOL interactive services are going from home to office," said Walsh. "Usage and behavior is blended."

Another focus for Netscape, said Love, is the ability to roam with Internet access - from home to office to airport.

Love pointed out that all of these new initiatives can be achieved with HTML and JavaScript. "There's nothing proprietary," he said.

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