So long Barksdale

Former Netscape Communications chairman Jim Barksdale said this week you shouldn't expect to see him taking on another top executive job anytime soon -- or anytime at all for that matter. Barksdale, who is leaving Netscape in the wake of its takeover by America Online, says he has no interest in taking on a new active manager's role.

Former Netscape Communications hairman Jim Barksdale said this week you shouldn't expect to see him taking on another top executive job anytime soon -- or anytime at all for that matter.

Barksdale, who is leaving Netscape in the wake of its takeover by America Online (AOL), says he has no interest in taking on a new active manager's role. His comments came at GartnerGroup's Spring Symposium/ITxpo 99 conference here.

Barksdale says he's had enough of answering to shareholders and boards of directors and instead will invest in new companies and sit on boards of directors himself. Barksdale is on AOL's board of directors.

He also joked that he might become an industry analyst. Barksdale, a former Federal Express chief information officer, led Netscape during its five years of independence.

As for Netscape's future under AOL, Barksdale declined to get into many specifics. He pointed attendees towards press conferences that AOL, Netscape and Sun Microsystems Inc. have scheduled for this week and next week. However, he did express optimism about the Netscape-AOL combination, which he said should be able to take better advantage of the growing network portal business. He said that even though AOL plans to continue offering customers a version of Microsoft 's Internet Explorer browser, the online service provider has pledged to provide the 30 million users of its interactive chat software with Netscape browser technology, including Netscape's new Gecko browser technology. However, Barksdale did describe the browser strategy as tricky and said, "things can change."

The customer portal business, which involves companies designing portals for their own employees or trading partners, is a particularly promising market under the AOL deal, Barksdale said. He described Netscape's shift in emphasis from enterprise software to portals as being among the company's best maneuvers.

Barksdale also anticipates Sun's role in the AOL-Netscape deal to pay big dividends. Sun is paying AOL $100 million for the right to resell Netscape software and build on it. While acknowledging that Sun doesn't have a great track record selling software, he says the company has a big financial incentive to sell Netscape's goods given the millions that Sun is plunking down. The Sun deal could prove to be similar to IBM's Lotus acquisition under which IBM has been able to sell loads of hardware tied to Lotus software sales.

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