The financial markets showed a lack of confidence in a past golden boy last week as Netscape Communications' stock fell 9.6% after a Wall Street analyst said the company's sales growth was slowing.
Netscape, which has reported revenue growth of around 30% each quarter for the last six quarters in a row, will manage a 20% increase in fourth quarter revenues according to Merril Lynch analyst Bruce Smith. He said: "Netscape is not growing as quickly as it was; that's not speculation, that's fact."
In an interview with the New York Times, another analyst, Marc Usem at Salomon Brothers, said Netscape "is moving from a monopoly in Web browsers and servers into a product space where they're just another name - and not the top name - in a very competitive market.''
Usem said he wasn't confident Netscape was equipped to deal with competitors, notably Microsoft. Smith agreed: "I do not think Netscape can expect to put a groupware product together in the next two or so years. By comparison Microsoft (with Exchange) and Lotus (with Notes) have been working on their offerings for more than a decade."
Smith is unashamedly scathing of Netscape's SuiteSpot groupware offering in a report he has completed for Merril Lynch investors. "The future for Netscape is not going to get any easier. The competitive landscape is changing and neither Microsoft nor Lotus are going to ease the pressure."
Jennifer O'Mahony, a spokesperson for Netscape in the US, refused to discuss the company's finances because "we are in a black-out period until our results are published." She added "I think it is unreasonable to expect us to maintain the kind of growth we have been used to because we now come from a much larger base." O'Mahony was equally scathing of Smith's remarks about SuiteSpot: "I think it is unfair for these analysts to compare our products with Lotus' and Microsoft's because our whole offering is not yet complete. They're not comparing apples with apples."
Netscape's end of year results will be published on 28 January.
Netscape desperately needs to re-establish itself in the server market if it wishes to avoid ending up a "has been". NetCraft, which runs a monthly survey of Web server usage on the Internet, places Netscape fourth, behind Microsoft (third) in its January poll. These are disappointing results for a company which prides itself on being the first to popularise the Web. With SuiteSpot Netscape will have a tough time making a name for itself in the Email/groupware sector against Notes and Exchange.
NETSCAPE: ON THE INTRANET TRAIL
SuiteSpot 3.0 is an integrated server software suite of 10 server products for building corporate intranets.
It comprises a publishing environment, combined with communication and collaboration, directory and search services and access to existing databases and legacy systems.
The server suite is designed to scale from local workgroups to global enterprise networks and deliver a range of user services based on the open Internet architecture of a corporate intranet.
Netscape last week extended the SuiteSpot server family with the availability of two more products.
These are the final releases of Netscape Proxy Server 2.5 and the beta version of Netscape Collabra Server 3.0. Netscape Proxy Server is a Web content replication and filtering server. Netscape claims its Proxy Server reduces costs and increases access controls.
For instance, it caches Web content inside the firewall to conserve network bandwidth, reduce traffic and provide faster performance.
Collabra Server is an open Internet discussion server based on the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP). According to benchmarks from Netscape in conjunction with KPMG and Key Labs, Collabra Server scales to support up to 6,000 simultaneous users concurrently per server.
Other benchmark results show that Netscape Messaging Server, the messaging software feature in SuiteSpot, scales to support up to 4,500 simulated.
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