Netscape Communications has given its users more options with the splitting of Navigator 4.0 out from under the umbrella of the Communicator client suite.
The stand-alone Web browser is now available free via download on a trial basis.
"This new offering fills out our product family and allows us to accommodate at the low end the price-sensitive customer," said Mike Homer, vice president for marketing at Netscape.
Netscape officials said that they had planned all along to spin off the browser component from Communicator, but recent announcements by Lotus Development, Apple Computer and Microsoft seemed to have speeded up the decision.
Lotus has agreed to make Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser the default for the Notes product line. And Apple has made IE the default browser for new Mac OS systems.
"We were surprised by the Apple announcement," said Homer. The fact that Microsoft makes its browser free makes it difficult for vendors not to license it and bundle it with their wares, he added.
Netscape announced Monday that Navigator 4.0 will be bundled with products from several hardware and software vendors, yet Homer said it was not the preferred browser for them as had Netscape's Web browser been in earlier versions.
IBM will be offering Navigator 4.0 in its Aptiva PCs and ThinkPad notebooks. Its Lotus division will provide it with Notes. Other vendors with license agreements include Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Digital Equipment, Silicon Graphics, Novell, and Corel.
"It's a great thing that they're doing," said Joan-Carol Brigham, research manager of the Internet program IDC in Denver. "It's an extension of the product line, a simple and elegant strategy shift. My only criticism is that they are not giving it way for free."
Available now for a 90-day trial period, Navigator 4.0 with Netcaster sells for $US39, said Homer, who admitted that such trial uses amount to free software because there is no time-out feature in the product.
Navigator 4.0 is at http://home.netscape.com/flash1/download/index.html. About 18Mb of free hard disk space is required for a typical install.
For home and small business users, Netscape hopes that Navigator 4.0 will bring in a new wave of users. The browser will be bundled with ISVs in the United States and Europe, with the potential to reach 100 million end-users, Homer said, likening it to "carpet bombing" the home market with the new browser.
Netscape Communications Corp., in Mountain View, Calif., is at http://home.netscape.com