Netscape Communications is to license its Navigator Web browser to Oracle's 16,000 employees for internal use in a move that casts a shadow over the future of Oracle's own PowerBrowser software. The announcement may also strengthen relations between the companies in the face of their common enemy, Microsoft.
Oracle employees will use Navigator on multiple operating systems to access the company's intranet and the Internet, say Netscape officials. The deal comes only weeks after Oracle released Version 1.5 of PowerBrowser, at which time the company boasted it had beaten Netscape to market with a Web browser that works with both a Basic scripting language and Java, Sun's programming language.
"Oracle is likely to de-emphasise the browser," says Chip Gliedman, an industry analyst with Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, California. "I don't know of anyone who has any significant investment in PowerBrowser, and it has negligible market share. It's really just a device to help them position and sell their servers."
Oracle is likely to look to market leader Netscape to replace PowerBrowser in the near term, says one systems integrator. "It seems there really isn't any thrust behind PowerBrowser anymore, but it was planned -- Oracle will try to form a partnership with Netscape at the client and deliver products on the server," says Rich Finkelstein, president of Performance Computing, a consulting and systems integration company in Chicago.
Although Oracle may be willing to cede the browser market to Netscape, the company will not let go of the Web server side so easily, industry observers say. Both companies sell Internet server software based on different architectures and could find themselves competing head to head.
"The server is a collision course between Netscape and Oracle," Finkelstein says. Oracle and Netscape have made their server products work together where appropriate by allowing, for example, Netscape's Web servers to access information stored on Oracle databases.