Netscape?s Netcenter 'portal' site will become a key component in the company?s new strategy for the emerging 'Net Economy', executives revealed on Thursday.
Web portals and enterprise services will merge, the company predicted, providing Netscape with an edge over competitors such as Microsoft, Sun or Oracle.
Netscape executives outlined the company?s new strategy at a press and analyst day in San Francisco yesterday.
When Netscape decided, earlier this year, to give away its browser for free, the company was left with two seemingly disparate sources of income - the sale of Web servers to corporate customers, and the running of a popular Web site. But according to Jim Barksdale, these activities are not only complementary. He said both markets would merge into one.
A key concept in Netscape?s new strategy is what it is calling enterprise service providers or ESPs. These are companies that develop large scale Internet applications for customers, partners and suppliers. While large corporations will be their own enterprise service provider, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will turn to ESPs to outsource the development and hosting of their electronic commerce applications, Netscape predicts.
Netscape said it would concentrate on providing products and services to such ESPs, as well as to Internet service providers). These ISPs and ESPs will, in turn, offers outsourcing services based on Netscape products to SMEs.
Marc Andreessen, founder and current executive vice president of products and marketing, said the majority of companies would choose to outsource most of their ecommerce applications. ?We think this is a huge trend," he said.
But these SMEs will then have to make sure that other businesses, or consumers, discover and visit their Web sites. And this is where Netcenter comes in. Netscape will offer to host ecommerce applications on Netcenter, where eight to nine million visitors pass every day.
Andreessen said that Web portals, as they are now commonly called, will become increasingly important for the business market, in the same way that they have become powerful forces in the consumer market.
Not only will enterprises benefit from the visitors that a portal attracts, but the portal sites will also develop into 'trading communities' where companies do business with each other.
?The enterprise service business and the portal business are coming together," said Netscape president and CEO Jim Barksdale. ?Our advantage is that we?re in both these businesses." He said it would be ?difficult? for other companies to compete with Netscape if they have only Internet software, or only a portal site.
Marc Andreessen said Netscape?s approach to being an Internet portal differs fundamentally from Microsoft?s approach. He pointed out that Microsoft has developed its own travel and entertainment sites, potentially competing with customers. ?The more Microsoft is successful in the portal area, the more the companies they compete with will want to partner with us," Andreessen predicted.
Netscape demonstrated the new version of its portal site, dubbed Netcenter 2.0. It offers many of the features found on the Web?s leading portal site, Yahoo. But Netscape is adding functionality by leveraging its control of the browser, integrating Netcenter 2.0 with an upcoming update of Communicator 4.
For instance, instead of typing a URL address, users of the new browser (currently referred to as Communicator 4.x) will be able to type in a product name or subject category ? immediately leading them to a corresponding Netcenter section or to a Netcenter Web search.
Discussing Netscape?s previous strategies, Andreessen said the company used to take ?all products to all customers via all channels?. He said Netscape will now concentrate on offering its products and services to ISPs and ESPs, who will in turn offer outsourcing services to SMEs.
Netscape will focus its own sales team on 2,500 named accounts, while using partners to address other customers.
This is at least the second time that Netscape has changed its target market. Initially, it concentrated on the Web browser and server markets. Then, the company turned to the corporate Intranet, a concept Netscape virtually invented. Now, Netscape is refocusing on the Web itself, this time with ISPs and ESPs as its key customers.
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