What's next for browsers

"Be prepared." Yes, I know I'm hardly a Boy Scout.

"Be prepared."

Yes, I know I'm hardly a Boy Scout. But that doesn't mean I can't steal their motto. Indeed, AnchorDesk was founded on the principle of helping you prepare. Alerting you in advance about important developments -- including the ones the vendors don't want you to know about -- so you can make smart decisions.

With that in mind, let's take one step back from the current browser wars and think through what's coming next:

Short term. Look for Microsoft to release an "Explorer Plus" with a consumer bent. I'm guessing it will look like the special browser originally built for The Microsoft Network. Crammed with ActiveX controls and other gizmos that supposedly make it easier for those oh-so-stupid consumers to surf that big, bad, scary Internet.

Mid-term. Watch for Netscape to bring out incremental Communicator upgrades with better support for Java and for new Internet standards such as XML and HTML 4.0.

Long-term. In the second half of 1998, expect Microsoft and Netscape to enter the end game -- the final death match for control of the desktop. Microsoft will try to kill Netscape once and for all with Windows 98, in which the browser and the operating system will be virtually indistinguishable. This ultimate integration -- already partially under way in IE 4.0 -- is dubbed "Active Desktop."

Netscape will counter with an integrated desktop of its own, code-named Aurora. The goal is to give users a single view of everything, whether from the Internet, from your corporate intranet, from your local area network or from your hard disk. Microsoft will try to accomplish this by building proprietary hooks into Windows. Netscape will try to do it using open Internet standards, so it will run on any computer (not just Windows machines).

As you watch the browser wars over the next 12 months, remember you are really preparing to make a final decision in 1998. A decision that will determine where and how you compute for the next five years or so. In a new Internet-capable version of Windows. Or in a Java-activated Netscape browser that really doesn't care which operating system is underneath.

Where do you want to live tomorrow? Join the discussion under way in the Jesse's Berst Alerts forum. Or click the Talk Back link to send me a message for possible posting.


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