Netscape has announced a streamlined low cost version of its Navigator browser to increase uptake and reduce conflict with OEM partners such as Lotus and Sun Microsystems.
As 'VNU Newswire' reported last month, Netscape has done a U-turn and will now offer users the basic browser, Navigator 4.0, separately from the Communicator and Communicator Pro products. These provide additional functions including messaging, conferencing and calendar. Until this week Netscape officially said Navigator would only come bundled with Communicator.
"In our range Navigator 4.0 is the easiest to use. It runs as a single interface across all the 17 platforms we support, and has the lowest cost of ownership," said vice president of sales and marketing, Mike Homer.
Homer said partners, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Lotus, Sun Microsystems, Digital, Silicon Graphics and Oracle, would license Navigator 4.0 and distribute it.
Netscape angered its OEM partners when it released Communicator and Navigator as a single package because its messaging, security and directory functions could compete with their own groupware and email products.
Lotus announced two weeks ago that it would bundle Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser instead of Navigator with its Notes and Smartsuite products for this reason. Now the browser has been unbundled Lotus will offer customers a choice between IE4 and Navigator 4.0.
Homer denied this move would mean corporates would only buy their browsers from Netscape and would use other companies' products for higher margin applications such as messaging.
"Our best customers are the folks that use our browser. By proliferating the browser throughout corporates these customers become our best customers for servers," he argued.
Aberdeen Group analyst Tim Sloane said Netscape faced a more crucial clash with its OEM partners over its Suitespot server package, which competes with their own applications. However, he does believe unbundling Navigator is a good move.
"It shows IBM, Sun and Netscape will continue to work together to try to dominate the desktop with Netscape's browser and that Netscape is willing to back off on competitive issues," he said.
The new Navigator 4.0 product will be priced at $39, compared to $59 for the standard edition of Communicator. It uses about one-third of the memory of Communicator and will come with push application Netcaster.
Navigator 4.0 will include two new applications, Messenger Express and Calendar Express. These give users remote access via the browser to their email and calendar functions.
Netscape said it plans to distribute 100 million new copies of Navigator to home users through deals with telecommunications suppliers in Europe and the US.
There is also a new licensing policy, called Take Home, whereby individuals with a licensed browser at work will be able to use it at home for free.
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