Netscape could cut its own throat in the future by bundling software that competes with its OEMs' products in its own Suitespot offering.
This is the damning conclusion of a white paper by research organisation, the Aberdeen Group, entitled 'Netscape's diminishing role as an Internet superstar', which paints a grim picture for the browser maker.
It claims Java has levelled the Internet playing field that Netscape once dominated, while the company has failed to communicate effectively to IT managers or developers about its products or strategy.
Key to the report's criticism of Netscape's future is that the company has to generate a far higher proportion of revenue from selling servers, as income from browsers falls through increased competition. Netscape's significant advertising revenue associated with its Web site will also fall with its market share, warned the analysts.
However, as Netscape has increased the functionality of its Suitespot server package to include messaging, directory and security applications, so it is beginning to compete head-on with OEMs such as IBM and Sun Microsystems, which bundle Suitespot with their hardware.
"We are critical of Netscape from the perspective that the company is now moving into territory with new competition and it has not adjusted its strategy accordingly," said Tim Sloane, analyst at the Aberdeen Group.
Unlike when it broke into the Internet market, Netscape will have to compete with established players for server sales and Sloane does not believe it will be able to break into large corporations beyond selling Web products.
Sam Sethi, Netscape's UK marketing manager, admitted that Suitespot was coming into greater competition with IBM's Lotus division but argued that OEMs could continue to ship a choice of products, much as they do with operating systems, and that IBM and Sun were right behind Netscape's products.
"Most Sun and IBM AIX boxes are shipping with a Netscape Web server. Sun's key aim is to sell tin and we help them do that," he said.
One possible opportunity for Netscape to bring in new revenue could be leveraging its Internet research and development expertise by offering services and consulting products.
With this in mind Netscape said this week it is looking to expand its existing inhouse consulting team from the existing 150 staff to over 600 by the end of next year. By then, the company estimates this part of its business could account for up to 20 per cent of revenue. Currently much of the consultancy is free.
Meanwhile, after a couple of false starts, the full version of Netscape's push technology Netcaster is now available for download and Netscape is busy signing up companies to provide the content.
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