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Netscape makes connection

Two occasional competitors in e-commerce software, Connect and Netscape, forge a new alliance.

Two occasional competitors in software for Internet commerce, Connect (CNKT) and Netscape Communications (NSCP), have forged a pact to embed Netscape's Web server software in Connect's high-end commerce applications.

The pact may signal that Netscape is pulling back from its electronic commerce initiatives to focus on intranets, as its executives have been saying it would do for months. Netscape has put most of its e-commerce activity into the Actra Business Systems joint venture with GE Information Systems.

Connect will bundle Netscape's Enterprise Server software with Connect's OneServer and OrderStream applications. Connect has been using a Web server it wrote on its own. Integrating Netscape's server will reduce Connect's software code by about four percent, and Netscape will handle support for basic Web server functions.

"This allows us to put value where customers can see it, in electronic commerce functions, not in the plumbing," said Bart Foster, Connect vice president of marketing. "This means we're not duking it out with Netscape in merchant stuff and shows support for the Netscape world against the Microsoft world."

He added: "We look at Microsoft very explicitly trying to be a competitor of ours and trying to undermine things the Internet stands on like Java and openness."

Romeo Baldeviso, account manager in Netscape's developer relations group, said that Connect's products do compete with Netscape's Merchant System and Publishing System but that those products have been moved into Actra, along with its Community System software.

"This plays in the enterprise space, which is our core technology market," said Lynn Carpenter, Netscape senior manager for developer marketing. "We are actively engaged in making sure developers have as many options as possible."

A top Actra official indicated recently that the joint venture will do more than just business-to-business e-commerce software, which has been its announced focus. Ray Rike, vice president, sales and marketing, said Actra also will create some business-to-consumer software as an extension to its primary business focus.

"We are pleased that a sophisticated, market-leading company such as Connect has integrated our technology into its high-end interactive commerce applications," said James Barksdale, president and CEO of Netscape. "The collaboration with Connect will help us further expand Netscape's presence in the high-end Web commerce marketplace."

"Connect and Netscape are an excellent match," said Mark Winther, vice president, worldwide telecommunications and interactive services, at industry research group IDC/Link.

Connect has focused on complicated Internet commerce applications customers with complex problems, including Compaq Computer, Reader's Digest, and Fruit of the Loom.