Following the lead of its archrival Microsoft, IBM is planning to blend the interface of its OS/2 Warp 4.0 operating system with Netscape's Navigator browser. In addition, IBM plans to deliver a handful of add-on packs that will serve as updates for the 32-bit operating system during 1997.
By seamlessly marrying elements of OS/2 Warp's interface with Netscape's browser and adopting an add-on pack strategy for future updates, IBM hopes to counter Microsoft's similar strategy of melding its Internet Explorer browser into its desktop operating systems.
"Our plans are along the same lines as Microsoft's where the interface is the browser and the browser is the interface," one IBM insider says. "This is one of about 20 different development projects we are working on, many of which will be in the add-on packs." Although the company has not decided how many add-on packs it will deliver next year, sources say there will be at least five or six.
One of those packs will complement the company's Net.Commerce product, which includes IBM's Merchant Server and Store Manager. This add-on controls the user interface to those server products and allows IS managers to more easily administer their sites. A second add-on will be a clustering pack centered on the company's Phoenix set of APIs.
In concert with the planned OS/2 client improvements, the company is also planning to break out the firewall capabilities within OS/2 Warp Server and offer them separately for the Intel platform. The company hopes to deliver this as a yet-unnamed product in the first half of next year.
There are essentially two routes IBM can take in marrying Netscape's browser technology with its interface, according to developers. IBM can either enhance Netscape's interface by making it work seamlessly with embedded Java and OpenDoc components or weave together IBM's Workplace Shell with browser functions. "If you could have browser windows opening up on the desktop, much like Windows apps open up with the Workplace Shell, that would be the preferable approach. But at this point it is hard to say which way IBM will go," one long-time OS/2 user says.
Although IBM could meld Netscape's Communicator client suite -- which includes Navigator, an email client, and some group calendar features -- with the OS/2 Warp interface, the company will more likely push similar features in Lotus Notes. "I wouldn't expect Netscape's Communicator to be anything more than an option," another IBM insider says.