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Netscape employees mixed on deal

As executives hammer out details of a possible buyout of Netscape, employees are left to wonder what life might be like under AOL and possibly Sun.

As executives and attorneys hammer out the details of a possible buyout of Netscape Communications, employees are left to wonder what life might be like under America Online and possibly Sun Microsystems.

Mountain View, California-based Netscape for the most See special coverage: AOL to buy Netscape part is keeping mum about the progress of the talks, telling employees no more than what it has told the press since the story broke over the weekend. The company has confirmed that talks are in progress, but has stressed that no deal has been reached.

At least one division within Netscape briefed employees at a midday meeting today, but offered them few specifics.

Reaction among employees to the prospective buyout has been mixed, according to a Netscape staffer.

"People really don't know what to think," said an e-commerce division employee. "Most of us think it's going to happen. But they're basically not telling us anything."

In addition to the delicacy and uncertainty of the negotiations, Netscape legally is under a quiet period because of its quarterly earnings announcement, due tomorrow.

Chief executive Jim Barksdale today sent out a memo urging employees not to talk to members of the press.

A potential alliance with Sun seems to make more sense than working for AOL--at least among the software divisions.

"Sun seems like a more solid match, because we're such strong proponents of Java," the staffer said, referring to Sun's cross-platform programming language. "People are more skeptical of AOL."

One question on employees minds that executives cannot answer yet is what will become of their stock options. Netscape employees recently had their options repriced when the stock sank to 52-week lows.

The stock has been on a rebound in recent weeks, and closed just shy of 42, up 7 percent on the day's news.

"Netscape was finally getting into a good range," said the staffer. "It was getting exciting to finally own these options. But I suppose it's good in a way--AOL's a great stock."

AOL closed up 4.375 points at 89.25, and traded as high as 91 to break its all-time high of 90.