Netscape attempts to draw curtain on Windows

Netscape will unveil enhancements to its Communicator client this week that are intended to position the software as the primary interface for accessing applications.

Netscape will unveil enhancements to its Communicator client this week that are intended to position the software as the primary interface for accessing applications.

Netscape will also announce a partnership with Marimba that is designed to leverage Marimba's Castanet technology to deliver applications and content to the Communicator desktop environment.

These initiatives will leverage Communicator -- previewed last month in New York -- to give users a desktop metaphor that replaces Microsoft's Windows user interface.

"This is Netscape's answer to Microsoft's Active Desktop," says one source who asked not to be named.

The idea, the source says, is to "go beyond the browser metaphor, since the browser was never meant to be an application framework in the first place."

Castanet will allow applications to be shipped directly to a client hard drive, from where the Netscape client can place calls to them.

"Netscape needs to find another place to put applets besides in its cache," says one industry observer who asked not to be named. "They need a noncache persistent storage of Java applets and Internet Inter-ORB Protocol classes."

This will provide persistent storage of Java classes, pre-empting the need for different Java classes to be downloaded each time a Java application is run. Marimba's technology represents a similar attempt to extend the power of Java by allowing it to access more of the client.

The announcement represents the first major enterprise partner for Marimba since the company unveiled its Castanet technology in early October.

Other key components of the Netscape announcements will include support for OpenDoc technology from Apple and IBM. Netscape will also announce support for Apple's QuickTime audio and video compression technology and improved integration between JavaSoft's Java Beans and LiveConnect.

In addition, Communicator will feature an IIOP solution that is interchangeable with the one proposed by Sun and IBM earlier this year.

Third-party developers will step up at Comdex to provide applications that will run on both the desktop and the server using Netscape technology as the bridge between the two.

Netscape will also announce data delivery services with Internet and intranet content providers such as PointCast.

"There is a new class of data," the source says. "It is a hybrid of applications and content that can be updated in real time." (See Vendors release hybrid apps.)

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