Netscape - Live and Let Die or Day of the Mozilla

Netscape reminds me of the James Bond Movie "Live and Let Die," this was Roger Moore's first outing as the British master spy and probably one of the better Moore Bond outings. But the central theme of the movie was the mad dictator of a small Caribbean island nation who had a grand scheme to make millions by creating countless hoardes of heroin addicts in the U.S.. The mad dictator planned to do this by importing tons of heroin into the U.S. under diplomatic cover, giving it away for free, and creating legions of new heroin addicts in the process. Once he had created all these addicts with his free heroin deals, he would begin to sell the heroin at vastly inflated prices and rake in millions in the process.

Netscape followed the same ploy as the mad dictator Kananga. Give the product away for free, ostensibly disguised as a "beta" test product and get everybody used to using it. Then cut off the supply of "free" product and all these Netscape junkies will gladly ante up the money to buy a "real" version of the product. Such marketing schemes would have even done the retail impressario Sam Walton proud! The real treat of this marketing strategy was that by creating millions of Netscape clients, you also a created a market for Netscape server software and that was the real money was to be made! Would be web site types thought, "well if everyone is using Netscape browsers, we'd better use a Netscape server." At five grand a pop for Netscape server, you didn't have to sell very many to make a tidy profit. Then you hype Marc Andreessen as the next Bill Gates, a software "wunderkind." Netscape will be "the" internet company and become the dominant supplier of operating systems. We'll have "Netscape 95," a direct replacement for Windows 95. We'll have Netscape NT, Netscape SQL server, Netscape Word, Netscape Office, and so on. Bill Gates might as well retire and enjoy the years remaining to him because Netscape and Marc Andreessen are the future. The media took this hook, line, and sinker and Netscape's IPO went nuts and the stock was bid up well beyond what is was actually worth. Andressen and his Netscape cohorts became instant zillionaires and probably haven't written a line of source code or gone near a compiler since then!! Yes, Micosoft gives away its "Internet Explorer" browser, but the difference is that Micosoft had already sold an operating system to those people. Netscape hasn't sold any operating systems as far as I know.

If Netscape thinks they can take on Microsoft in the operating system market, I think they are sadly mistaken. I think they are also mistaken if they think they can become the dominant supplier of internet server/client applications. IBM and Novell, hardly lightweights in the business tried and failed miserably. IBM is just about ready to throw the towel in on OS/2 and Novell, once the dominant supplier of networking software is losing market share to Windows NT and appears to be clueless in coming up with new products to compete with Windows NT or provide internet connectivity. (they do offer a PPP server package for Netware, 3 thousand bucks, thank you) If heavyweights such as this fail miserably in taking on Microsoft, why would people think that some johnny-come-lately such as Netscape in going to drive Microsoft into the corporate graveyard. Microsoft has moved quickly into the internet market by building TCP/IP connectivity into the operating systems they offer and rolling out a whole host of internet server applications. NT server comes with all the tools necessary to make it into a PPP gateway unlike Netware and it's cheaper to start off with. If Netscape came up with a reasonably priced server package that was easy to install, easy to administer, was compatible with most client software commonly used these days, and worked well with multiport boards, they might have something there. NT's RAS does this, maybe not to perfection, but it DOES work. But Netscape seems to be content with their Web browsers and overpriced server software and people expect that Netscape is going to plow Microsoft into the corporate dustbin, that's a laugh!!!

Where will Netscape be five years from now??? Probably no where!! I tend to think that Netscape will go the same way as many other flash-in-the-pan software companies have. Standalone client applications for internet connectivity probably won't have a long life as companies like Microsoft integrate them into their O/S packages. Windows 95 is already a start to that trend and when Windows 95 and Windows NT are merged together as the next generation of operating systems, they will have all the internet client applications built right in. This doesn't leave much room for Netscape. The same goes for the server side as well, all these server applications will be built into server packages that Microsoft and others will be selling. Perhaps Netscape will find a niche there in the workstation market, but even that is shakey because the difference in terms of performance between high performance workstations such as what Sun, HP, and Silicon Graphics sell and inexpensive mass-market PC's is quickly closing. Netscape could end up being the next Digital Research. Remember them??? Digital Research was the dominant supplier of operating systems in the early days of 8-bit computing and they made millions licensing CP/M to the OEM's supplying those boxes. IBM went to them looking for an operating system for their naiscent PC. Digital Research wasn't interested because they felt CP/M would carry them on into the future and IBM, that beached- whale of a computer company would certainly fail in this new market. So why bother was their attitude. Digital Research is gone and Netscape is likely to be next. Netscape might have a nice browser, but that alone won't carry them into the future, but like Gary Kildall before them, those zillions flowing into your checking accounts tends to blind your vision of the future.

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Fred Findling
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