Netscape did not decide to make the source code of its next-generation browser freely available for license on the Internet only as a marketing ploy, but as a way to accelerate to development and to ensure choice for customers, says a senior official.
“The decision was was made to go back to the roots of the Internet, which is a community effort. This strategy has been used successfully by Linux and Apache," says US-based Netscape vice-president of international marketing Linda Lawrence. "We certainly are the first to do this and incorporate it into a commercial business and we are pioneering, as we have in the past."
Netscape has also announced that its Navigator and Communicator client applications will be available for free online. Lawrence, who spoke to Asia-Pacific journalists in a conference call on Friday, says making its browsers available free won't have a big impact on the company, because browser revenues account for just 13% of its business.
Lawrence says Netscape has shifted its focus in recent months, and has “incubated” two very strong businesses - its enterprise software and Netcenter Online Service.
“We see the client as the seed for both of these important businesses.”
Lawrence says people don't realise how quickly Netscape has moved from a consumer-focused, browser company, to an enterprise-focused application and solutions company.
“Our stand-alone client revenue (from 1996 to 1997) decreased 67% from $US52 million to $US17million. Our enterprise revenue grew 68%, from $52million to $95 million.”
She says that the Netcenter Online Service, will deliver $US100 million in revenue for 1997.
“To put that in perspective, that’s about one and a half times larger than Yahoo, which makes us the largest commercial web-based service.”
Netscape’s decision to allow developers to freely licence the browser source code over the Internet, is already being heralded as a creative move by analysts. The company plans to begin by posting the code for the first Netscape Communicator 5.0 developer release, expected by the end of the first (current) quarter of 1998. The code will be available for modification and redistribution.
“This broad distribution will come through a large number, in fact thousands of partners around the world, who will be enabled by these broader distribution agreements, to distribute the software themselves, and to incorporate our source code into the solution they in turn deliver to customers.”
Lawrence says this means Netscape cuts down distribution costs, and is leveraging off the creativity and innovation from the thousands of programmers on the Internet, by incorporating their best enhancements into future versions of Netscape’s software.
“We believe we’re helping local businesses and local industries by making the client available so easily, so that companies around the world - not just US companies that have access to venture funding - can leverage their core competence, bring it to the Net and create new revenue streams for them, and help to accelerate the difference to the local market.”
Asked what Microsoft would think of Netscape’s new strategy, Lawrence replies: “I can’t wait to see. I don't think they’ll make their code available on-line.”