December 30, 1997 1:55 PM PST

Netscape sharpens Javagator plans

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Netscape Communications (NSCP) says it will have an all-Java browser ready for network computers and other clients by July.

A company representative today clarified Netscape's plans for the browser, a pure-Java version of Navigator that the company is targeting as the client environment of choice for Java-based NCs.

The browser, which Netscape vice president Marc Andreessen first announced last summer, will go into beta by the end of March and should be finalized by the end of June, group product manager Edith Gong said. Until now, the company had said only that an unspecified version would be ready in the first quarter of 1998.

Although bandied about by company executives and in the press, the term "Javagator" is strictly slang. The official code name for the browser is Maui, Gong said.

Java-based NCs have just begun to ship, with IBM now taking orders for its Network Station 1000. But other vendors are having trouble getting the machines to market, due in part to the lack of viable Java business applications. With the release of Lotus Development's eSuite plus the upcoming Java Navigator, potential NC buyers could get a boost of confidence that mainstream applications from major vendors will be the rule rather than the exception.

Moreover, Netscape's move to develop a pure Java browser will put the company's long-standing cross-platform mantra to the test. The extent of the pure Java browser's technological success and market acceptance will most likely serve as a temperature gauge for other developers looking to test the Java waters.

Like the current standalone Navigator 4.x product, Maui will not have any mail or newsreading capability. The product will be based on Netscape's Java-based rendering and display engine, code-named Gemini. Gemini will be a JavaBean, a Java software component that developers can combine with other Beans to create a Java application. Gemini also will be at the core of the next generation of Communicator, code-named Mercury, which is scheduled to ship in the first half of 1998.

Netscape has not decided if the first-quarter beta of Maui will be made available to the public. Browser makers usually post beta versions of their software on their Web sites.


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