Sun, AOL outline Alliance plans

The alliance between Sun Microsystems and America Online (AOL) will focus on delivering packaged electronic-commerce infrastructure and application software that combine the best features from Sun and AOL's Netscape Enterprise group, officials said today. In November, AOL bought Netscape Communications in a stock-for-stock deal believed to be worth as much as $US10 billion, and also announced the alliance with Sun.

The alliance between Sun Microsystems and America Online (AOL) will focus on delivering packaged electronic-commerce infrastructure and application software that combine the best features from Sun and AOL's Netscape Enterprise group, officials said today.

In November, AOL bought Netscape Communications in a stock-for-stock deal believed to be worth as much as $US10 billion, and also announced the alliance with Sun.

This week the companies coughed up the details of that pact. Sun and AOL will develop a unified product line while continuing to support their current respective products and will offer all their products through a combined 500-member sales force. The products will be available on multiple platforms, including those from Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Sun, as well as Linux and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, officials said.

The branding strategy will be announced later, but the alliance, called the Sun-Netscape alliance and headed by Mark Tolliver as president and general manager, will operate as an independent software company and report to a board consisting of AOL and Sun executives. The Sun-Netscape group will have some 2,000 employees, eventually drawn about equally from Sun and Netscape, though currently more Netscape employees are involved, officials said.

"We're going to operate in a fashion that is indistinguishable from a software company," alliance head Tolliver said during a press conference in New York today. "We want to be the world's leading software vendor for the .com age."

The product roadmap outlined at the conference included the following details:

-- In messaging and collaboration, Netscape and Sun will each release one additional version of their respective products. A joint product will ship in the first quarter of 2000;

-- The alliance's directory, security and management servers will be based on Netscape's LDAP directory server and be augmented by Sun's Network Information Service (NIS) and NIS+;

-- In application servers, Sun released its next version of NetDynamics on March 10 and the next release of Netscape's application server will take place later this year, as planned. A collaboratively developed application server will be delivered early next year;

-- On the client side, Netscape's browser will continue to be based on Mozilla;

The companies' services and sales organizations will be tied together as well. Professional services will work with customers in a custom approach designed to be complementary, not competitive, to system integrators' work, and the sales forces will be combined, officials said.

"It's one sales organisation, one price list and one set of products," Tolliver said.

AOL, in Dulles, Virginia, can be reached at +1-703-448-8700, or at http://www.aol.com/. Sun Microsystems Inc., which is in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at +1-650-960-1300, or at http://www.sun.com/.

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