The company best known for its Web browser last week outlined its latest corporate strategy, one aimed explicitly at getting out of Microsoft's path. For two years now, Netscape has been Public Enemy No. 1 for Bill Gates's gang, becoming the nemesis that Microsoft's culture requires to motivate itself.
Being the clay pigeon for Microsoft's target practice has hurt Netscape on Wall Street, and Redmond's bare-knuckled tactics have, appropriately, drawn the attention of the Justice Department.
To get out of harm's way, Netscape has identified a series of essentially niche markets, tied them together by calling them a corporate strategy, and posited that there are synergies among them. Some of the synergies are clear, but a key one is still unproven.
Netscape's plan is like a reinforced, three-legged stool. The legs are an enterprise software business focused on creating a computer infrastructure in large organizations, Internet commerce software, and its oft-visited Web site.
The reinforcement for those three pillars comes, to my surprise, from Netscape's no-revenue Web browser business, where the company continues to innovate. The browser tie-in will be to Netcenter, which Netscape is building out into a "portal" site for business users. Although users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser can use Netcenter, Netscape said (sans details) that it will link new services and information offerings tightly with Navigator/Communicator.
More interesting than what Netscape said it would do are the things it said it won't do. Take these points from cofounder Marc Andreessen, who now runs Netscape's application business:
"We are no longer trying to be all things to all people," Andreessen added. He exaggerated only slightly in saying that in earlier days the goal had been to "take all products into all channels in all countries in all languages all at once."
Senior writer Tim Clark, an avid telecommuter, has worked as a reporter and editor for 22 years, including stints at trade pubs Interactive Week and Advertising Age and editing gigs at San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Business Times, and Palo Alto Weekly. Under his guidance, the business weekly won national awards for its coverage of the 1989 earthquake, while PA Weekly won statewide honors in its early years. NEWS.COM is his fourth start-up publication. He covers electronic commerce, Internet security, intranets, and online advertising and composes a weekly column on Internet commerce. He is married with two teenage children.