Netscape turns to Singapore to enhance software

Netscape Communications has announced the signing of a far-reaching accord with a Singapore electronic commerce provider which will see the US company incorporating some of the Singaporean vendor's software into its own product line. A spokesman says the alliance 'goes far beyond the traditional systems integrator relationship'.

Netscape Communications has announced the signing of a far-reaching accord with a Singapore electronic commerce provider which will see the US company incorporating some of the Singaporean vendor's software into its own product line.

"This alliance goes far and beyond the traditional systems integrator relationship," said Kriss Channe, Asia South marketing director, Netscape Singapore.

Value-added network services specialist Singapore Networks Services (SNS) and Netscape yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) relating to the provision of electronic commerce systems to businesses in Asia-Pacific. Present at the signing was Netscape Chief Executive Officer and President Jim Barksdale.

"I am particularly delighted that we are to work jointly to develop certain SNS technology to enhance our Internet commerce solutions," Barksdale said in his address yesterday at the MOU signing. "This is symbolic not only because we see Singapore as having ideal conditions for a regional commerce hub to materialize, but also it begins a process whereby Singapore will ultimately play a greater international role in the development of Internet commerce."

The Netscape/SNS deal will see the pair collaborate on the development of an Internet-based integrated supply chain management system, scheduled to debut at the Comdex/Fall computer show in Las Vegas in November, said Netscape's Channe. The system is intended to handle both direct and indirect purchases over the Internet from large organisations. The hope is that such a system which ties together procurement and selling over the 'Net will help companies to cut costs and improve customer satisfaction, Netscape said.

To reach such a goal, SNS, a new Netscape customer, will integrate the U.S. vendor's CommerceXpert electronic commerce software into its existing EDI (electronic data interchange) system, Channe said.

Under the terms of the MOU, SNS will also become a Netscape regional electronic commerce systems integrator and offer services related to Netscape's software to Asian business customers, he added.

But by far the most intriguing piece of the deal is what Netscape garners in return from SNS.

The two companies intend to partner on joint technology development, with SNS' present customer billing and management system being integrated into Netscape's CommerceXpert for hosted environments, Channe said. This will allow customers to have access to a management tool to bill and manage their user accounts for hosting organizations, Netscape said. "This is the first time we've looked at doing this in the region," Channe added.

SNS is best known as being the operator of TradeNet, a Singapore-wide electronic network which enables trade documentation and settlement. The company currently has more than 20,000 customers connected to its EDI network from industry sectors including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, financial and legal operations. SNS already has joint ventures in place in Canada, China, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Philippines and South Africa.

In his address yesterday at the MOU signing, Barksdale quoted figures from market research company Forrester Research Inc. that estimate that the Internet will connect more than 1.3 million companies around the world by 2000, with the value of the e-commerce market set to grow to US$300 billion. "In Singapore alone, we're looking at growing from $5 million now to $1 billion by 2001," Barksdale said.

Most of this future revenue will be generated by business-to-business transactions and the creation of new trading networks, Barksdale said. "The 'Net economy presents a unique opportunity now, for Asia to jump-start an economic recovery by streamlining their business operations with innovative Internet-based technologies and build an online business to penetrate into new international markets," he said in his speech.

Barksdale also committed yesterday to setting up an Asian version of the company's Web portal site.

In March of this year, Netscape appointed its first e-commerce systems integrator in Southeast Asia, another Singapore company, SilkRoute Ventures Pte Ltd.

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