Netscape has finally released the first beta of Netcaster, their "push" desktop replacement for Windows 95 and NT 4.0. Or, in the company's words:

"Netscape Netcaster client software gives users the ability to subscribe to dynamic Web content, called "channels," to browse channels and Web sites offline, and to create a Webtop--a favorite channel that is anchored to the desktop."

Netcaster is a 8.5MB download that includes Netscape Communicator 4.0 Typical install (unfortunately, you cannot download the Netcaster component separately).

You can download Netcaster now from the Nexus and view a screenshot.

My first impressions: It's less integrated with the operating system than IE4 but that may be desirable. It's also a bit buggy but shows incredible potential. I'd like to see the browser windows it opens "auto-fit" on the remainder of my desktop: I run at 800x600 usually and the windows it opens are larger than the space I have and can't be resized. I also wish the Netcaster sliding window--which has a cute little tab on it--didn't create an button on the taskbar. A tray icon would be more appropriate. I like the way you can slide the main window off to the side, so that only the tab shows but would prefer to have more layout options (only right and left sides are available).

Overall, it looks like a winner. Given Netscape's ability to throw beta out the door, I expect some serious improvements in the coming month or two. I will review Netcaster when a more polished release is available