Battening down the hatchets against their biggest rival Microsoft, Oracle and Netscape have signed an exclusive agreement to market and distribute each others' Internet software products. The tie-up heightened recent Wall Street speculation that Oracle is interested in buying Netscape.
Oracle will adopt Netscape?s browser, Navigator, as the standard software for its network computers, which are expected in the first half of 1997. Since the NCs are designed to use Web browsers to download applications from servers over the Internet, rather than storing them locally, this gives Navigator a pivotal role in Oracle's attempt to promote an alternative to the PC computing model, where power is concentrated on the desktop.
Meanwhile, Netscape will bundle Oracle?s Universal Server database with its range of Web software for corporates, which is aimed at companies exchanging data over the Intranet or building Web sites.
The tie-up with Netscape marks a sudden change of heart from Oracle after weeks of discord between the two companies. In recent weeks the companies have been outlining competing Internet and Intranet product strategies and just last month Larry Elllison, chief executive of Oracle, declared that Netscape had "no chance" of winning the "browser war" against Microsoft. Recently Oracle has developed a browser, Internet server and Internet email products, all of which compete with Netscape's range. However, the choice of Navigator rather than Oracle's own browser for the NC indicates that the database company sees Netscape as a powerful ally against Microsoft.
Friday?s announcement precedes a week of Internet-related manoeuvres from the world?s software giants. Today Microsoft and Intel, along with a host of other PC makers, are expected to unveil specifications for a new class of low-maintenance PCs to challenge the network computers. But on Tuesday Sun will retaliate with the launch of its new Javastation family of $800 NCs.
While Microsoft has been downplaying the threat from NCs it has been scrambling to come up with ways to lower the cost of ownership for PCs and make them easier to use for home consumers. Today the company will announce details of its initiative with Intel and major PC manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard and Compaq.
The Sun product will be the first of an expected flurry of appliance-like devices dubbed network computers. It will run software written in the company?s Java programming language.
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