Column: Netscape distributor plans more vocal presence

Netscape is finally emerging as a player in the New Zealand market, through distributor Comtech.

Netscape is finally emerging as a player in the New Zealand market. Until recently, end-users had to seek out information from the Web itself or go through ISPs or less-than-enthusiastic resellers. That is changing now that Comtech is making a move to counter Microsoft's strong challenge. Terry Allen, Microsoft's Internet business manager, has gone on record saying Microsoft is aiming for a 50% share of the competitive browser market. Greg Munro, Comtech's Netscape champion, has his work cut out for him. (See Netscape launches.)

"Our marketing strategy is to promote the entire Netscape line of Internet products via our reseller channels" says Munro. "We are concentrating on empowering our value-added resellers (VARS) to become more proactive in promoting Netscape to corporate clients. We are doing this though a programme of training, providing critical pre- and post-sales support, and joint marketing initiatives.

"We have three basic types of VARs; the top system integrators like Wang, Eagle Technology and Software Spectrum don't really need a lot of direction. They already have the necessary expertise to implement Netscape products. We are concentrating on the mid-level of VARS, groups like Clearfield Consulting and Netbyte, to assist them with key clients. And we are reaching out to smaller VARs as well."

Like Microsoft, Netscape is eyeing Internet servers as the area of greatest revenue potential. After all, the browser market can't be too lucrative with Microsoft's Explorer priced at the bargain-basement price of $0.00 (plus GST) and Netscape giving away free "evaluation" copies of Navigator 3.0 with no time-out. So the battle will focus on the server packages.

Netscape will be pushing its SuiteSpot, consisting of Enterprise Server, LiveWire Pro (featuring database connectivity), Catalogue Server, Proxy Server, Mail Server and News Server. Microsoft has already released BackOffice with similar capabilities. This rivalry can only spell more functionality at lower prices for the consumer.

The danger is that both Microsoft and Netscape will try to promote their product as a standard to the detriment of the other. This will do neither outfit any good, with the fallout making life miserable for the IT manager faced with choosing between two capable products.

In any event, both Microsoft and Comtech are making a palpable effort to educate their reseller channels on not only the benefits of their respective products but also on the procedures to install and support them once they have been sold. Neither organisation has the resources to handle all pre- and post-sales support so they are both ramping up the skills of their reseller network. Comtech has adopted a two-pronged approach. "We are working very hard to upskill our resellers on the one hand," says Munro, "and working with those people who presently have the requisite skills to add value to our products on the other." For a look at Comtech's programme and latest news, visit the company's home page at

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