A Year Ago Today: Q&A with Netscape's Barksdale

This story was first published October 15, 1996

Prior to making this afternoon's address in London where he will outline Netscape's transition to the intranet market and a new bundle of products for Navigator, Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale gave an exclusive interview to Mike Bracken for PC Daily News.

PCDN: What are you doing here today?

A worldwide press conference from here to New York and Mountain View [California] to talk about new products that we are going to be releasing in the next quarter, and to talk about the intranet. In the simplest form, the gist of it is this: Netscape is dedicated to the intra-net and we believe that the great opportunities over the next few years will be for the sale of software to corporate and enterprise creators of intranets.

What are you doing with Navigator - a version 4.0?

We don't call it that. We call it the `Communicator', which includes Navigator and several other products: a very rich multimedia E-mail messaging product as well as Collabra for collaboration and groupware usage, plus enhancements for audio conferencing, calendering and administration.

And on the server side?

Orion. That's nine new versions of our intranet and Internet server products as well as the LiveWire development tool. We'll be working more directly within Microsoft platforms in the creation of intra-net software.

So where does this leave the browser wars?

The browser is only a piece of this model. The press continues to write about it because its a consumer item. People understand a Web browser better than an enterprise Web server. The people who read the consumer press are more interested in the former. We said since we started that that it really isn't the principal side of our business. Over 80 per cent of our business comes from selling client-server software to corporates. This will continue to be our continual focus. We think the browser war is over with, if there ever was a war. It's a very bad metaphor for a business situation. It's more of a battle.

You said that you will aggressively target Microsoft platforms, but at the moment, you sell primarily on Unix platforms...

No, we don't. Our product lines are NT and Unix. We set a precedent when we priced our Unix and NT products together. Historically, the prices for Unix had been higher. We downloaded 100,000 copies of our server products last quarter, and I'd venture that tens of thousands of those were for NT. Our FastTrack server will run on Windows 95, so we see a lot of market there. We do have a lot of Unix though because most Web servers are Unix-based.

Do you think that the Network Computer will affect the market?

There is a marvellous prospect that they will. IBM, Sun and others are pushing for it. We would like to supply software for this, which is why we set up Navio. Whether or not the NC will reach the expectations some people are bandying about I don't know, but it will take off in business, much like the PC did. The NC will force PCs to be more competitive.

Navio also had a consumer angle. What about the range of devices like Web TVs that hardly exist today?

Hybrid Web TV is available today from Philips and Sony. Integrated Web TV is being developed. There are games with modem adapters running in test markets. In '97 we'll start to see some of these things.

Are you part of the TV-HTML initiative?

We will participate where appropriate. The major drivers are the appliance companies themselves. Standards will be presented to the relevant bodies within 18 months.

What's your position regarding Novell in general and about supporting NetWare in particular?

We are currently talking to Novell about tighter participation. I probably shouldn't say anything more than that.

You are on record of saying that you wouldn't trust the US Department of Justice to restrain Microsoft. Have subsequent events changed your views?

I still don't bet on the DOJ, and I know that lawsuits don't always come out the way you think they will. Some have accused us of making it into a PR stunt. That's absurd. We wouldn't spend that amount of money on a publicity stunt; we're in the newspapers every day!

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