Netscape's Navigator is set to become the default web browser for the NC (Network Computer) after Oracle acquired the company's majority stake in Internet software developer Navio last week.
Under the agreement, Oracle's NCI subsidiary, which handles the company's NC business, will merge with Navio and own the rights to the Java version of Navio's Netscape Navigator web browser.
Oracle is expected to take a $60 million (#37.5 million) charge this year to cover the cost of the merger.
The agreement is certain to strengthen Netscape's position against Microsoft, which has been stealing market share from its bitter rival, largely by offering its Internet Explorer free of charge. Netscape's stock value has dropped by 60% over the past year and it recently issued a profits warning.
It is expected that Oracle will include Navigator as part of the NC reference platform. Another anticipated change is the renaming of Navio's Netscape Navigator Browser to NC Navigator.
Commenting on the deal, Jim Barksdale, Netscape's president and chief executive officer, said: "With this merger, Netscape is on course to bring its Internet technology to every desktop. It will give developers and corporations a standard, open application platform for which they can write applications that run seamlessly across NCs, PCs and workstations."
Sam Sethi, UK product manager at Netscape, predicted that Navigator will take 90% of the NC web browser market as a result of the deal.
He explained that NCI will now have access to Netscape's source code, including code to Netscape's Communicator Internet communications suite, which is due to start shipping on 11 June (See Review page 30).
"As we evolve Communicator, the new features will be integrated into NCI's software products," said Sethi.
Mauro Rigetti, president of NCI for Europe, Middle East and Africa, believed the merger would help NCI become more competitive in the consumer electronics market, where Navio has been making inroads. "Within this calendar year we will see results," predicted Rigetti.
Robin Bloor, chairman and CEO of Bloor Research, agreed. "For NCI to succeed it needs a software business," he said.
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