Netscape has brought forward the release of its next generation Constellation push software by six months, claiming it puts it a year ahead of arch rival Microsoft.
Constellation, the codename for Netscape's push technology, will be officially called Netcaster and incorporated into Communicator, the next version of the company's browser.
The first beta of Communicator to include Netcaster will become available on 29 April, with the final release date set for 30 May. Netcaster was originally due to be incorporated into an update to Communicator, originally expected in the third quarter of this year.
The announcement comes at a bad time for Microsoft, which has just been forced to postpone the release of the next version of Windows 95, Memphis, because of problems with Internet Explorer 4.0.
"Microsoft will not have push technology in its browser until 1998, so we'll be a clear year ahead," claimed Sam Sethi, marketing manager at Netscape UK. "This is not slideware, this is actual software. The proof is in what you deliver, not what you say."
Microsoft disputed it was behind Netscape but confirmed it has delayed Memphis.
Melissa Bane, analyst at the Yankee Group, doubted timing will be an issue. She said: "Key content partnerships are going to be as important as push technology in winning this race. Winning in this area means positioning oneself as the gateway for information, and you've got to have the biggest and best content out there to attract the most eyeballs."
On the content side, Netscape has signed up several large providers for its push channels. They include US broadcasters ABC and CNN, Sportsline, Yahoo and America Online.
Netcaster includes five key components: Webtop Mode; Channels; Netscape Channel Finder; Offline Browsing; and the Castanet Tuner, licensed from Marimba.
Netscape has gleefully stolen a march on Microsoft in the browser wars.
But being first to market is not everything. Netscape now needs to prove it can attract enough content provider partners to keep users interested in its products.
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