Netscape has unveiled its answer to the Microsoft Active Desktop - a product codenamed Constellation.
Scheduled to ship in the middle of next year, Constellation will be integrated into Netscape Communicator, a client suite incorporating Email, groupware and browser functions. It will provide a new interface with buttons down the side which open 'channels' to broadcast information.
The Constellation interface will sit on top of the Windows GUI, effectively allowing users to navigate all their applications from the browser instead of from Windows. Constellation is said to support multiple platforms.
In addition, the technology will support the much-hyped 'push' paradigm of information retrieval. This means it will gather data from local networks or the Internet according to user-set criteria and replicate it transparently to the server. In this way, "information finds the user" instead of vice versa, said Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale.
In providing a user interface combining access to the Internet with access to local drives, Netscape is following Microsoft's Active Desktop initiative.
This is Microsoft's integration of its Web browser into the Windows interface, allowing users to navigate LANs, local hard drives and the Internet from a single point. It will ship as part of Internet Explorer 4.0 in the first quarter of next year.
A buoyant Andrew Lees, director of Internet and desktop planning at Microsoft UK, said he was delighted at Netscape's moves. "We're very upbeat because they're now in copycat mode," he laughed. "That's very funny coming from a company that said we are out of date and not innovating."
"We will ship before them, we will build our technology into Windows, we will get broader support than they will, and we will have a better product."
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