January 2, 1997 1:00 PM PST

Browser wars wage on

The browser wars of 1996 are over but not forgotten.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) and Microsoft (MSFT) are both working to start beta testing new versions of their Web browsers, perhaps as early as this month.

Netscape plans to release beta versions of its Communicator browser for Mac and Unix users "in a matter of weeks," a company spokeswoman said today. The release will coincide with the second beta release of Communicator for 32-bit Windows platforms.

Netscape introduced a "preview release" of Communicator for Windows in late December. The company prides itself on supporting more than a dozen different operating systems, but it is unclear whether the Mac and Unix versions of Communicator will indeed coincide with the Windows 95 release.

The spokeswoman denied rumors that it will release a Mac version of Communicator by the opening of Macworld Expo conference in San Francisco next week.

Microsoft's schedule for the next major release of its browser, Explorer 4.0, is slightly behind Netscape's. A company spokeswoman said today that Microsoft is still on track to release a public beta version of Internet Explorer 4.0 in the first quarter of 1997.

Internet Explorer 4.0 will bolster the connection between the browser and the Windows desktop by letting users browse information stored on their hard disks the same way they now browse Web sites. The browser will also contain Net broadcasting capabilities that allow users to automatically receive constantly updated news headlines, including stock quotes and sports scores.

The company had previously promised to release a private beta of Explorer 4.0 for developers by the end of 1996 but the spokeswoman could not confirm today whether the private beta has been shipped to developers as planned.

Hoping not to be left out of the limelight, Apple Computer (AAPL) will officially announce next week at Macworld that it will integrate its CyberDog Internet application suite with a new edition of the Mac OS due out by the end of January.

The move is a parallel to Microsoft's decision to bundle Explorer with Windows. CyberDog, which includes a Web browser, email client, and news reader software, will be bundled with the System 7.6 update of the MacOS, code-named Harmony.

 

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