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Netscape back in browser wars with double barrage

Netscape will begin a fresh attack on Microsoft in the Web browser war this week. On Friday, the firm will release Communicator 4.

Netscape will begin a fresh attack on Microsoft in the Web browser war this week. On Friday, the firm will release Communicator 4.02 and on August 18 will begin offering an unbundled, slimmed down Navigator 4.0 with Netcaster and Webtop push components.

Communicator 4.02 will be simultaneously released in Windows 95, NT, 3.1, Macintosh and Unix versions and will include the final code of Nescape Netcaster 1.0 push broadcast technology as well as a fix for the recent JavaScript bug.

Perhaps more significantly, the August 18 Navigator standalone release will be a relatively meagre 4-5Mb, compared to its current size of close to 9Mb when expanded from a 4Mb download size. Windows 95, 3.1 and NT versions will be available, to be followed by Macintosh and Unix flavours in the first week of September. Price will be in the $29-39 range although trial downloads will continue to be free.

Sam Sethi, marketing manager for Netscape UK, said the standalone Navigator had its roots in a request by Lotus which didn't want to bundle a groupware suite with Domino and Notes. Navigator 4.0 will be licensed to Lotus, IBM (for AIX and AS/400), Novell (for GroupWise 5) and ICL (for TeamWare).

Sethi added that the move heralds a return to taking Microsoft head-on in the battle for the Web desktop. "You'll see Netscape coming back hard in the consumer war," he said. "The whole aim is to get back the hearts and minds of consumers. If we're going to win the server war we have to win the browser war."

To that end, Netscape will begin a new round of advertising over the rest of the year, aimed at hitting back at what it sees as Microsoft marketing smoke and mirrors regarding browser market share.

At the same time, Netscape will unify home and office licensing for Communicator and Navigator.