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Barksdale maps Netscape plans

The CEO says his firm is expanding into new areas--but the so-called ERP market (for enterprise resource planning) isn't one of them.

SAN FRANCISCO--Netscape Communications chief executive Jim Barksdale said today that his company is broadening its horizons and expanding into new areas--but the enterprise resource planning market will not be one of them.

Barksdale said he intends to leave that market to established players such as SAP, Baan, and Oracle. Instead, Netscape intends to be a Web interface that runs on top of those applications to add Web connectivity.

In the past, Netscape e-commerce executives have indicated they would not be surprised if enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors bought other Internet commerce software firms.

"We compete now; but purchasing in most ERP systems is not Web-enabled," Barksdale said. "I don't think we will move into their space and replace them. That is not our vision. We've got enough competition and we have no designs on SAP or Oracle financials."

Speaking to an executive conference here organized by the Giga Information Group, Barksdale noted that Netscape has just been certified to work with Oracle financial applications.

Barksdale also announced a new customer for Netscape's e-commerce software, financial and insurance giant John Hancock, which will use BuyerXpert software for its procurement system.

Hancock initially will automate corporate procurement for 7,000 employees, streamlining workflow approvals and executing purchase transactions. In its first phase, Hancock will deploy Netscape's system to three Boston area divisions, expanding nationwide in the second phase to regional branch offices by year's end.

Barksdale pegged Hancock's procurement spending at $300 million annually and emphasized Netscape's support of the Open Buying on the Internet protocol, which details how business catalogs should be presented.

Barksdale also hit on the frequent Netscape refrain that it is not a browser company, and that Netscape did $100 million last quarter in its enterprise software business, with another $30 million through its Netcenter Web site.

Barksdale said his firm milked revenue from its Web browser for three years to develop products that could compete effectively with Microsoft. Microsoft, he said, is not likely to put an application server like the one Netscape acquired with Kiva Software into future versions of the Windows NT corporate operating system.

Likewise, he noted that in e-commerce applications, the software itself accounts for less than 15 percent of a project's cost, with implementation and knowledge making up the remainder, an area where he thinks Netscape can compete against Microsoft and others.

Barksdale reviewed other recent customer wins, including the May sale of e-commerce software to Citibank.

"The best tool any salesman can have is a reference customer," Barksdale quipped. "Otherwise you talk a lot about technology."