Marc Andreessen, Netscape's co-founder and senior VP of technology, mapped out his company's latest strategy last week while playing down its back-tracking on Microsoft's ActiveX technology.
Speaking via satellite from New York, Andreessen told UK journalists that Netscape would be concentrating on the intranet and legacy software in the coming year.
Targeting the groupware market, Andreessen announced Suitespot 3.0, an integrated server suite which Netscape claims will capture 50% of the exploding intranet market over the next 12 months.
To justify his predictions, Andreessen cited a recent survey by IDC which stated that some Netscape intranet customers were realising a 1,000% return on their investment in just three months. The report documents a payback time of approximately six weeks after deployment.
Ian Campbell, IDC's director of collaborative and intranet computing, said: "We found that companies investing in Netscape intranet software today can expect the investment to pay for itself in time for Christmas."
To help make that become a reality, Netscape has secured OEM deals with more than 70 big name companies, including Apple, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
On the client side, Netscape took the wraps off Navigator 4.0, which it plans to ship in February. The new browser will be battling to outdo Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0, which has consistently beaten Navigator in reviews. In an attempt to make the new browser more appealing, Navigator will only be available as part of a set of five products, collectively called Communicator. The other applications in the bundle include Netscape Composer, an HTML authoring package, Messenger electronic mail, Collabra group discussion software and Conference real time collaboration software.
According to Andreessen, Communicator will support ActiveX, which until last week Netscape slammed as a proprietary format it was never going to support.
Jo Bryant, research director at Banner Research, believes Netscape's change of heart was inevitable. "It didn't have a choice. Explorer is being given away and if Netscape is to remain in the browser market it needed to work hard with all the standards. It's another example of Microsoft turning everything to its advantage."
Andreessen's previous stance on ActiveX made him look a bit of a twit.
Netscape was the only major browser vendor not supporting ActiveX and it had no choice but to cave in. However, last week's decision was a serious blow to Sun, whose Java language competes with ActiveX, and is a further victory for Microsoft's Win32 only ActiveX strategy. For users of platforms other than NT and Win 95, the prospect of a Net ruled by a Windows-only paradigm is a glum one.
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