Netscape reassures DOD after takeover by AOL

Netscape Communications Corp.’s acquisition by America Online Inc. will strengthen
Netscape server and application software development—a concern for the Defense
Department as its largest single customer, said John Menkart, Netscape director of
government sales.


Netscape formerly had to divide its focus between server and application software,
leading to some government worries about its ultimate direction, Menkart said. AOL of
Dulles, Va., the world’s largest online service provider with 14 million subscribers,
will help Netscape deliver in both areas, he said.


DOD has a departmentwide Netscape license. President and chief executive officer Jim
Barksdale “spoke to me at the time of the announcement and confirmed the commitment
to maintain a strong working relationship with us,” said Lt. Gen. David J. Kelley,
director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. “Every indication is that they
are living up to their commitment.”


AOL announced plans to acquire Netscape in November in a deal valued at more than $4
billion. At the same time, it announced an alliance with Sun Microsystems Inc. to develop
electronic commerce products. The acquisition was completed last month.


Besides a messaging server, Netscape’s public-key encryption server is a keystone
of its government business. It also develops electronic data interchange and electronic
commerce applications.


“Their products are key to the development and fielding of the public-key
infrastructure that will enable our move into EC in a protected environment,” Kelley
said. “On successful completion of the software testing that is going on now, we will
decide on an option that will give us a DODwide license.”


Menkart said Sun and Netscape will collaborate on new software server products for
release next year. Both companies now produce messaging and application servers.


Sun’s messaging server is scalable and fault-tolerant, whereas Netscape’s
messaging server is better adapted to a distributed environment, he said. He expects to
see features from both incorporated into each company’s brands this year, and a new
line of Sun-Netscape servers to be released in 2000.


The name of the new alliance brand is still up in the air, he said.


The AOL-Netscape merger drew attention because of the number of regular visitors to the
two companies’ Web portal sites—nearly 30 million. Menkart said the government
also is interested in setting up portal sites.


Two DOD offices, the Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office and the Office of the
Secretary for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, have started pilot
development of My Netscape personalized Web pages for employees, Menkart said.  


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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