Netscape and Next Software have announced a partnership that they hope will provide increased back-end connectivity for Netscape server products and a shot in the arm for Next's WebObjects technology. Next's Web product manager, John Landwehr, says that in its efforts to capture more of the intranet market, Netscape was seeking a better way to integrate its SuiteSpot Web server package with existing enterprise systems.
"It's a very natural fit," Landwehr says. "They want to go after the companies bringing existing legacy systems to the Web. For the last 10 years, we have been working on connecting to databases."
Eric Hahn, senior vice-president for enterprise technology at Netscape, agrees. "This alliance will allow customers to build very powerful Web applications," Hahn says. "Probably the most common will be interfacing intranets with back-end systems."
Netscape chief technology officer Marc Andreessen says the deal will help his company build and deploy greater functionality to the company's product line. "Next's WebObject environment is a very nice place for building Web applications," Andreessen says.
Next is also working with Microsoft, although Landwehr says that Microsoft and Netscape are addressing the issue of legacy integration in different ways. "Our products are vendor-operating-system neutral," Landwehr says. "Microsoft wants to keep things at the operating systems level, while Netscape sees Java as the answer."
Next and Microsoft announced a partnership at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in March, to the surprise of observers: Next CEO Steve Jobs and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates have battled fiercely over the PC market in the past. Jobs has criticised Netscape for its unresponsiveness.
"Microsoft is treating me the way you would have thought Netscape would, and Netscape is treating me the way you would have thought Microsoft would," Jobs says.
Landwehr says Jobs has a point. "Jobs is very good at politics, and he was sending a message to Netscape," Landwehr says. "He felt we had a fair bit in common and that we should be working together."
Hahn says the deal marks a change in the relationship between Netscape and Next. "This does represent an important sea of change," Hahn says. "We are a company that has gone through a lot of growing pains, and, at times, we have not been as responsive as we should have been."
Hahn expects Netscape's alliance with Next to prove more enduring than Next's alliance with Microsoft. "It's difficult to see how those two are going to work together," Hahn says.