Netscape, Oracle band together

Oracle and Netscape forge closer ties, announcing that they will bundle each other's products, including a network computer that runs on an Intel chip.

Jeff Pelline Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jeff Pelline is editor of CNET News.com. Jeff promises to buy a Toyota Prius once hybrid cars are allowed in the carpool lane with solo drivers.
Jeff Pelline
3 min read
Oracle (ORCL) and Netscape Communications (NSCP) today banded together, disclosing deals to bundle each other's products, including a network computer (NC) that runs on an Intel chip.

Oracle and Netscape hope that the deals will throw cold water on recent reports that the two companies are at odds. Part of the deal, to make Oracle a preferred server for Netscape, could be a blow to Informix, which already has a deal to bundle Netscape servers.

As previously reported by CNET, the deal will include Oracle's agreement to make a version of Netscape's Navigator a preferred browser for the network computer. In addition, the NC's architecture will include an off-the-shelf Intel microprocessor.

The Netscape-Oracle partnership is a high-profile example of two industry heavyweights teaming up to take on Microsoft. The NC is key to that challenge, as is Netscape's strategy to get out of the browser wars and focus on its business-oriented products.

"For us, working with Oracle in a partnership like this will help drive our penetration into the corporate or enterprise intramarket," said Marc Andreessen, senior vice president of technology for Netscape. "[It] should establish Navigator as the leader on this new volume [NC] platform, as well as the PC."

Added Karen White, senior vice president of strategic marketing for Oracle: "We look at this as an important endorsement for Oracle Universal Server underneath these Web sites. Six months ago, we might have viewed Netscape as perhaps an arms dealer, as well as our customer, and I think they viewed us the same way. Today, we view Netscape as a strategic partner. We've given each other an unprecedented level of exclusivity to the agreements."

Why? Because, as White pointed out, the companies core businesses are different, which gives them more opportunities to work together than compete. Both see an opportunity with the NC. Oracle Senior Director Jim Lynch said there could be between 46 million and 100 million NCs in circulation by the year 2000. Both companies predicted they could reduce the cost of desktop "computing," for customer service processing, for example, to less than $1,000 from $8,200 per worker.

The deal refutes reports that Netscape and Oracle were feuding. Last month, a Financial Times article quoted Oracle CEO Larry Ellison as saying Netscape has "no chance of surviving." Netscape Chief Executive Jim Barksdale responded by speculating that Ellison might be attempting to pull down Netscape's stock before trying to buy the company.

A Netscape spokeswoman later said that Barksdale was joking when he made the remark.

Oracle won't manufacture the NC but will supply the software for it. The network computer is a branded version of a stripped-down Internet box, also planned by a number of other companies, designed primarily for affordable Net surfing.

The NC with an Intel chip is scheduled to be officially rolled out at an Oracle trade show November 4, although Ellison recently has showed off the product at other conferences. Oracle also will release a list of manufacturers at the show.

In turn, the Oracle 7 database will become the preferred server for Netscape's commercial applications. A version of the Oracle server will be bundled with LiveWire Pro, a development and site management tool, and SuiteSpot, a suite of Internet servers.