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Netscape dials up telcos

Netscape will offer a new version of its server software to enable telecommunications companies and big corporations to offer Internet, intranet, and extranet services.

    In the hopes of spreading the power of the Internet to more businesses, large and small, Netscape Communications (NSCP) said today that it will offer an enhanced version of its server software to enable telecommunications companies to offer Internet, intranet, and extranet services to their customers.

    Netscape said it is working with the world's leading telecommunications companies to build a global Internet applications backbone that enables them to offer Internet services, such as email and electronic commerce.

    Netscape SuiteSpot Hosting Edition software, a special version of its SuiteSpot bundle aimed at service providers, supplies telecommunications and large corporate partners with the tools to offer hosted Internet, intranet, and extranet services.

    In addition to SuiteSpot Hosting Edition, Netscape is also shipping the Netscape CommerceXpert family of Internet commerce packages, including ECXpert, SellerXpert, BuyerXpert, PublishingXpert, and MerchantXpert. These applications allow business-to-business and business-to-consumer commerce to be conducted on the Internet. CommerceXpert is built on SuiteSpot servers.

    Netscape's enhanced server software, expected to ship in the fourth quarter of 1997, will allow telephone companies to offer electronic mail, Internet access, and discussion groups. The companies will be able to filter out junk email and create powerful new directories, and corporations will be able to improve their intranets.

    Telco companies will be able to choose between IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) or POP (Post Office Protocol), depending on which Internet standard they want to use, company officials said.

    Licensing fees for Netscape SuiteSpot Hosting Edition are expected to be $13 per seat per year for individual users and $39 per seat per year for corporate intranet services. Pricing for the CommerceXpert applications runs between $50,000 and $195,000.

    "We see this as a major benefit for small and medium-sized businesses because they can get the same sort of services we offer the larger businesses," said John Paul, senior vice president of Netscape's server products division. "We're trying to eliminate some of the barriers involved in getting the Internet widely deployed."

    Now that the telcos will provide the infrastructure and architecture for intranet, extranet, and Internet services, companies will be able to save money otherwise spent on setting up and maintaining them, said Ira Machefsky, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "One of the major trends for businesses now is to outsource a lot of the services companies had to do themselves. This provides the Internet, uniform services, and network standards to do the job, and [users] won't need the expertise to run it. They'll just use it," he said.

    Speaking at a conference in Europe, Jim Barksdale, Netscape's president and chief executive officer, declined to project the company's revenue targets for the new product, but told a news conference, "We expect it to be big deal," Reuters reported.

    The company also said it expects its revenues from electronic commerce over the Internet, currently around 10 percent, to rise strongly in the future.

    So far, Netscape already has significant momentum in building this global applications backbone and enabling the new hosting market. Today, more than 30 telcos distribute Netscape Navigator worldwide, and leading telcos and large companies are already hosting more than 2 million mailboxes based on Netscape SuiteSpot server software, according to the company.

    In this year's second quarter, the Mountain View, California-based company reported revenues of $135 million.

    Barksdale said the number of clients using Netscape software had jumped to 68 million by mid-1997 from 45 million in October 1996. But with competition increasing, this represented a lower market share of 70 percent versus 75 percent.

    Reuters contributed to this report.