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SiliconValley.interent.com: Latest Netscape 6 Beta Due This Week

Aug 07, 2000, 19:24 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Needle)

By David Needle, SiliconValley.interent.com

The browser wars aren't over yet. This week Netscape releases the second beta of Netscape 6 for download. There will be at least one more beta before a final version slated for this fall. This is a critical time for Netscape given that Microsoft's Internet Explorer has overtaken the once-dominant Netscape browser to gain the lion's share of the market,

Mountain View-based Netscape, now a division of America Online, has a lot riding on the success of Version 6, a radically reworked version of the pioneering Internet browser. The overhauled browser is based on the company's open source "Gecko" engine, and is smaller, faster and more customizable than previous versions.

"I don't want to be in a browser war," says Netscape General Manager Jim Martin in an interview with siliconvalley.internet.com. Martin concedes that even with recent Federal anti-trust rulings against Microsoft, Netscape faces an uphill struggle to unseat Internet Explorer.

"Its more difficult for us, because were not shipped on every machine that goes out with Windows (like Internet Explorer is)," says Martin. "But were certainly hoping to change that. Were working very closely with several OEMs to get Netscape on more desktops."

Among the new features in Netscape 6 are "My Sidebar," a customizable list of onscreen tabs that link users to their favorite Web information sources. CNN, eBay, CNET and NYTIMES.COM have developed tabs for My Sidebar. Other Web sites can make their content available to My Sidebar users by simply adding a "click here if you wish to put our content in your Netscape 6 Sidebar link in their site.

Netscape 6 also features "Themes" which let consumers personalize the look and feel of the browser.


Longer term, Martin says the "real" battle is "well beyond the desktop" to Internet-capable devices where he believes the small code base of Gecko will be a distinct advantage for Netscape. "My suspicion is that over time you will see a lot of companies adopt the Gecko engine because its very small, easy to work with, its open source so it's free and they can do a lot of cool things with it," says Martin. "The desktop is only one tiny piece of the landscape."

While its technology and brand name make Netscape a legitimate contender for Internet appliances, some analysts are skeptical it can make extend into the mobile/wireless space.

"Frankly, I cannot see what Netscape would bring to the party in terms of value-add," says Tim Scannell, an analyst with Mountain View-based Mobile Insights. "These are already a flurry of WAP content providers out there that can adapt content to virtually any device, as well as companies like AgentGo.com that take it a step further to add agent technology and eventually location-based services."

AOL has announced an agreement with Gateway which plans to deliver a series of devices (a countertop appliance, wireless Web pad, and desktop appliance) all powered by Gecko and the Linux operating system.

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