Netscape Extends Enterprise Communications Software

This week, Netscape Communications Corp. will release beta versions of its client and server software that complete the package the company has aimed at the enterprise market.

This week, Netscape Communications Corp. will release beta versions of its client and server software that complete the package the company has aimed at the enterprise market.

The Mountain View, California, company will release a beta version of its Messaging Server 3.0 mail server and a second beta of its Communicator client for Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 3.1, Macintosh and Unix.

Messaging Server is the last of the nine servers in Netscape's SuiteSpot 3.0 to be released since the company announced the suite last October.

A final version of the entire suite is scheduled to ship by the end of this quarter and will cost US$4,995.

Stand-alone versions of Messaging Server 3.0 will cost $995.

The product includes support for the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and for extensions to the Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) that let receipts and error messages be returned to the sender.

The second Communicator beta adds several features that were previously announced but werent implemented in the first release.

These include calendaring, support for Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript Style Sheets and automatic administration features that let information systems professionals centrally configure and update Communicator clients throughout an organization.

The new releases round out Netscape's bid for the corporate groupware and messaging markets.

Among the companies that have committed to Netscape's new products is U.S. West, Inc.

"One of the reasons we picked the Netscape products, in addition to cost, was the Internet standards [used in the products], so that we can be flexible and adjust as the market changes," said Becky McDonald, manager of messaging and World Wide Web infrastructure at US West in Boulder, Colorado.

Netscape has repeatedly pledged that its products will adhere to open standards so that customers can easily replace or integrate Netscape products with those of other vendors.

But Netscape also has repeatedly released products with features that are still under consideration by standards bodies or are extensions to existing standards.

"How do you differentiate in a world of standards?" asked Joyce Graff, an analyst at Gartner Group, Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut.

"The new euphemism for proprietary is extensions, Graff said.

She said it is unclear whether some of the features in Messaging Server 3.0, such as support for LDAP and support for X.509 digital certificates, are truly standards.

The features have been ratified by standards bodies but aren't yet widely supported by other products on the market.

But Netscape's Directory Server supports LDAP, and its Certificate Server issues X.509 digital certificates, which makes those products optimal for use with Netscape Messaging Server 3.0.

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