Netscape reveals Intranet strategy

The browser market leader has posted a white paper on its Web site that details the company's intranet strategy and future product plans in an apparent attempt to pre-empt a Microsoft strategy session.

Netscape Communications has posted a white paper on its Web site that details the fast-growing company's intranet strategy and future product plans in an apparent attempt to pre-empt a rival's strategy session.

The lengthy document, called the Netscape Intranet Vision and Product Roadmap, comes as a reminder that Netscape is positioning itself as an intranet solutions provider. The posting came a day before competitor Microsoft was to hold a day-long event in San Jose, California, at which it was to update customers on its intranet plans.

One analyst likens the battle of the intranet strategies to the current presidential campaign in the US.

"Netscape is not leaving any response opportunity unturned," says Stan Dolberg, senior analyst at Forrester Research's software strategy service in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the intranet race, Dolberg says he believes the incumbent will win.

"Microsoft is really way ahead on developing business applications, with tools and support for the whole ActiveX space," he says.

Netscape's near-term product plans include building a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) and services, called the Internet Application Framework, into all of its products for developers to leverage, according to the white paper.

The Mountain View, California, company will release an upgrade to is Navigator Web browser application, code-named Galileo, before the end of the year. It will also roll out the next version -- referred to as Orion -- of its server family, SuiteSpot, over the next 12 months.

In the white paper, Netscape describes its vision of a "full-service intranet." Specifically, this means having an internal network based on Internet protocols that provides users with information sharing and management, communications, collaboration, navigation and application access, the paper says. It also offers network services such as a directory, replication, security and management.

To help users create such a full-service intranet, Netscape suggests that they leverage the company's standards-based network application development platform, the Internet Application Framework. This set of APIs and class libraries is or will be implemented across all of the company's product offerings.

For example, Netscape has made user interface, information layout, networking and security services in Navigator available to developers of JavaScript scripts, Java applets, and plug-ins that run in the browser, thereby easing development, the paper says. Netscape's Enterprise Server and Directory Server also make APIs and services available to third-party commercial and custom applications.

"Each of the other Netscape servers either has now or will soon have Internet Application Framework APIs and class libraries that make the server's functionality and services available to custom applications in a seamless, cross-platform manner," the paper says.

Other Netscape product enhancements include Galileo, the next version of the company's browser, which will follow the final release of Navigator 3.0 late in the third quarter.

This Galileo upgrade will include following:

-- WYSIWYG and drag-and-drop editing features to HTML electronic mail messages, enhanced message filtering capabilities, implementation of the IMAP mailbox access protocol that synchronises online and offline mailboxes, and implementation of the S/MIME specification for encrypting and authenticating electronic mail.

-- The LDAP directory services standard, which will be integrated with Galileo's address book.

-- Web publishing features, which will be added directly into the browser, and prebuilt content modules, such as clip art, style sheets and Java objects.

-- Borland's just-in-time Java compiler, to speed up the execution of Java applications and applets. Netscape will also include some Java class libraries in Galileo, so that applications accessed on line can leverage some functionality stored on the client.

-- Navigator plug-ins, so that users do not have to search for and download them.

Over the next 12 months, Netscape will also release Orion, an upgrade to the company's SuiteSpot collection of Internet server applications. All of the servers included will gain the following features:

-- LDAP directory engine.

-- An agent services engine, so that both users and administrators can create and dispatch agents to perform specified functions.

-- Replication of directories, discussion groups, content and catalogues.

-- A Java and JavaScript application engine, allowing developers to write programs than can span all Orion servers and Galileo.

-- Full Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) capabilities.

Together, these product enhancements will help users build full-service intranets and move away from the computing model that has dominated the industry for the past 10 years, the paper says.

The white paper takes a thinly veiled cut at Microsoft, dismissing the software giant's products as inappropriate for the new paradigm.

"The old desktop-centric model, dominated by proprietary, static, non-networked applications, is losing prominence, as companies discover that basing their business computing environments on the intranet, and building applications on the intranet, are far easier and more powerful propositions for users, administrators, and application developers," the paper reads.

Netscape's white paper can be found at http://www.netscape.com/.

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