With Spry’s popular Internet in a Box offering squarely in its sights, Netscape Communications Corp. is hoping its popular browser will be enough to carry it to leadership in the integrated Internet suite market. The Mountain View, CA-based company has teamed up with popular Internet service providers MCI, Netcom, and Portal and e-mail software vendor Qualcomm in its $49 Netscape Navigator, Personal Edition.

One clear advantage that Netscape has over its rivals is its TCP/IP implementation. Instead of CompuServe’s winsock.dll used by Spry, Netscape includes a PPP dialer and Winsock extension developed by Shiva Corp. The Shiva software exhibits none of the incompatibilities with some Internet programs that have plagued Spry users. While Spry has promised to correct these problems, the Netscape package seems bulletproof.

Netscape has also greatly simplified the sometimes daunting configuration tasks by including a registration wizard that lets you sign on to any of the three providers through a toll-free call. Support for the company’s Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) allows safe transmission of credit card information.

Apart from the Web, one of the most popular Internet applications is e-mail. In licensing Eudora Light, Netscape has included the cream of the crop. The heart of the package, though, is Netscape Navigator browser, which according to independent estimates has captured more than 75 percent of the browser market.

Navigator puts a friendly face on Usenet, Gopher, and FTP, but lacks some functionality. You can’t, for example, upload files via FTP, and there’s no integrated support for telnet, although Netscape supports telnet through helper applications. In contrast, Internet in a Box includes Network File Manager for FTP, Air News, Air Gopher, Air Telnet and a trace utility. Internet newbies might eventually want to download extra pieces of software to fill these gaps, while more advanced users who want an easily portable Internet suite might want to consider Internet in a Box which, with its $90 price tag, offers a more complete package.