Netscape is copying Lotus with an initiative to rent out mini-intranets to small businesses and corporate departments.
Netscape has signed a deal with Concentric Network Corporation in the US to offer customers hosted private intranet services to be accessed from anywhere on the Internet. The service will be launched in August, initially available only in the US. A European rollout will follow in the near future.
Netscape's move mirrors Lotus' Instant TeamRoom for Domino. Available from the Lotus Web site, Instant TeamRoom allows users to set-up ad hoc intranets outside the corporate firewall. In effect, it means companies can rent intranets for special projects without the expense of setting one up inhouse.
Netscape Virtual Office applications will include the ability to publish and organise documents on a Web server, private discussion forums and Email. The company plans to expand the service in future with applications such as accounting, calendaring, conferencing and billing automation.
"The kind of things you can do with Virtual Office are trivial," scoffed Victor Aberdeen, Internet product manager at Lotus UK. "With TeamRoom, users can dial up with a credit card and create a virtual company, and rent real business applications. Unlike Netscape, we deliver useful business solutions."
With the launch of SuiteSpot 3.0 last month, Netscape stepped up its competition with Lotus Notes. SuiteSpot includes groupware capabilities based on technology from Collabra, acquired by Netscape in 1995.
Netscape is playing catch up to Lotus with this initiative, and in the groupware stakes. Meanwhile, Microsoft is staying out of the market for renting applications over the web. It's just not Gates' style - but he may live to regret it.
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