Say what you like about Netscape, the company certainly knows how to stick out from the crowd. Take its recent 25% price hike on its SuiteSpot server offering, for example.
While the rest of the industry is furiously trying to trim costs and pass savings and reductions onto their customers, Netscape has dared to be different by cranking prices up and then had the cheek to suggest that price isn't an issue in the corporate market. Where on earth did they get that idea from? Most corporates are expecting their IT spend to stay stable or decline year-on-year, while relying on an increasingly competitive market to deliver more for their money.
To say price isn't an issue for the corporate buyer is either breathtakingly naive, or arrogant. And Netscape certainly isn't naive. So arrogant then?
The company has come a long way very quickly, stealing a march on larger rivals and outmanoeuvering them with a browser and other products that became established as market leaders, not because they had a particular name on the box but because they were technically superior.
But the days when a company could deliver a fine product and sustain its momentum without too much effort are long gone. Indeed, the absence of those cosy, risk-free days created the circumstances in which developers like Netscape could flourish. Unfortunately for Netscape, the new dynamics mean you can perish just as quickly.
Now Netscape is not about to perish, but there are worrying signs that the company has lost its midas touch and the SuiteSpot price rise is but one example.
It is inexorably losing market share in the key browser software sector - hardly surprising given its slice of pie was so big to start with. But hoisting prices is not the best way to win new business, especially when your main rival's competing offering is free of charge, zilch, nowt, gratis.
Netscape is trying to argue that its products are so good they're worth the extra. We've heard that before. Apple once tried to build a business by charging a premium for its products over PCs and look what happened there.
Aside from that, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen is characterised as aloof and dismissive, as Richard Barry wrote in last week's issue. His article prompted a call from an anxious Netscape employee, who didn't pursue the matter. Strange times.
Is Netscape suffering for its popularity, or has it taken its eye off the ball and allowed Microsoft and Lotus to assert themselves? Both, probably.
It needs to go on a charm offensive. Bumping up prices is just offensive.
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