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Andreessen buys into e-commerce

Netscape is likely to acquire at least one e-commerce firm to round out its own offerings, Marc Andreessen says.

    SANTA CLARA, California--Netscape Communications is likely to acquire at least one e-commerce company to round out its own software offerings, particularly for specific industries like financial services, cofounder Marc Andreessen told a group of venture capitalists and investment bankers today.

    However, any acquisition is likely to be coordinated with a shift of marketing and other resources to vertical industries like government or financial services, Andreessen said in a NEWS.COM interview. In addition, this also won't happen for at least several months and perhaps two years.

    "We have historically done acquisitions to build up a product family, and that will continue," added Andreessen, who is now Netscape's executive vice president in charge of products and marketing. "In the next 12 months, we will focus in e-commerce, and there are certainly a lot of exciting companies with point products or bells and whistles. We might want to drop those into the product family."

    Netscape's new focus on consulting and professional services could lead to an acquisition, too. "We continue to be limited by the supply of trained people," he noted.

    Mike Homer, who runs Netscape's Netcenter Web portal, suggested the company might make acquisitions in the online area, "buying revenues, services, or members" to reach Netcenter's goal of being the top site on the Net by January 1, 2000.

    "We don't believe we can get there with a completely consumer strategy or a completely business strategy--you need both," added Homer, Netcenter's general manager, elaborating on a $10 million consumer marketing push announced earlier this week.

    In general, Netscape has used acquisitions to broaden its business faster than it would on its own. Last month, Homer said the company was looking to partner with major media companies to position Netcenter to compete more effectively with popular Internet services such as Yahoo.

    Andreessen and Homer represent the two prongs of Netscape's strategy, one in enterprise software and the other in publishing as a "business portal." The company believes it can tie the two sides together, using Netcenter to promote customers that buy Netscape e-commerce software.

    A key to the Netcenter side is to integrate new browser software with services on its Web site; Homer said new features will be unveiled next week. He added that a beta version of Navigator 4.5 will be released this month, with a version 5.0 moving into beta by year's end.

    Netcenter personalization, called My Netscape, will be designed as a personal Web desktop that lets users run applications like an address book stored on the Net, not simply as a personalized news ticker.

    Online trading communities to buy and sell business products will be rolled out over the next six to nine months, Homer predicted.

    Andreessen also said that the enterprise applications business will move more heavily into services and outsourcing over the next three years for companies that use software but don't want to run it themselves.