Netscape Communications'co-founder Marc Andreessen says his company's plans for Linux will bear fruit by year's end, as the company releases directory and messaging servers that run on the "open-source" operating system.
"We're responding to customer demand at this point," Andreessen told a small group of reporters at the DCI Information Architecture Conference. "We're seeing a lot of demand for Linux from (Internet service providers); we're seeing a lot of demand for Linux from Europe; we're seeing a lot of demand, actually, from the US Department of Defense."
He added that users can expect the release of Netscape's remaining servers -- such as the company's popular application server -- for Linux by next July. Pricing for the servers should be in line with their traditional counterparts, he added.
The freeware operating system, which was posted to the Internet eight years ago by its creator, Linus Torvalds, only recently began gaining momentum with commercial application vendors. Netscape, which currently makes Linux versions of its browser, joined Intel Corp. and two venture capital firms in September to take a minority stake in Linux vendor Red Hat Software in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
Andreessen grimaced when asked for his take on the so-called "Halloween document." Eric Raymond, an independent programmer who posted the memo on the Internet the previous weekend, claims that it is an internal Microsoft communication that revealed just "how seriously Microsoft takes the threat from Linux and other open-source projects." The memo, according to Raymond, also details "the dirty tricks Microsoft is willing to use to stop them."
"I think it shows that Microsoft, true to form, is very, very paranoid," Andreessen said. "Classic Microsoft strategy -- it's like what they did to Java. Microsoft's way to avoid having to be commoditised is to take it from open to closed and to take a proprietary and make it more complicated. Because what they've discovered is that in terms of maintaining (application programming interface) lock-in, or maintaining architectural block-in, complexity is its own reward; is its own justification."
Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn countered that the memo has been taken out of context. He said an engineer penned it in a staff capacity to "elicit discussion, get opinions and provide a picture of the competitive landscape.
"All this shows is that there's vigorous and real competition in the market and we're paying attention to it. This is not a strategic road map. Nobody is taking this document as a blueprint for our strategy in this marketplace -- it was simply a memo about what the competitive landscape looked like, written and circulated to some folks who are interested in that stuff," Sohn said.
"And the fact that (Andreessen is) talking about open to closed just ignores a very fundamental principle here at Microsoft: that our products, wherever possible, need to fully support industry-standard protocols."
In other news, Andreessen said, his company was moving forward with extensive plans to help companies of all sizes conduct business on the Web.
"We're going full-on toward e-commerce," Andreessen said. "There's been a lot of early adopters in e-commerce over the last few years, but to a large extent, they had to write their own software to do it."
To fill that niche, he said Netscape was building software that will help companies open their cybershop doors faster and keep them open longer by allowing them to build relationships with buyers through advanced customer-service offerings. Software for supplier-based electronic commerce is also under development, he added.
"In the server space, around products like our application, directory and messaging servers, we're focusing on a model where we think applications and directories and messaging needs to run on a much higher-level scale -- there's many more users per application," Andreessen said. "If someone's building an Internet-based application for doing customer service, it has to scale for a million users or 10 million users, and that's a level of scale for these products that we don't think Microsoft has been able to do."