Netscape Addresses the Internet: An Interview with Atri Chatterjee

Windows NT Magazine asked Atri Chatterjee, vice president of server products for Netscape Communications, to comment on Netscape's and Microsoft's new product strategies and the Internet.

Q: During the next 12 months, Win32 PCs will become the predominant installed hardware for Internet-connected machines. Can you still justify cross-platform compatibility?

A great value of Internet technology is that it provides a communications platform that is independent of the end device. Windows PCs are really good devices for lots of things, particularly desktop productivity applications. These devices are not the best for all things--that's why many artists use Macs and many engineers and scientists use UNIX machines,for example. Some emerging devices do other non-PC tasks well. So, you have two choices: You can make all devices the same and give lousy products to people doing things other than productivity apps. Or, on top of existing devices, you can deliver a thin communications platform to let everyone communicate well. Making all users first-class communications citizens is an important consideration with real business benefits to vendors and consumers.

Q: Current Internet browsers and servers do not support read and write. When and how do you see this situation changing?

Actually, our products do support read and write. Netscape Navigator Gold client software, Netscape FastTrack Server, and Netscape Enterprise Server 2.0 all support HTTP put (write) capabilities. This support means we are helping millions of Internet users become Internet publishers.

Q: Will HTML end up overflowing with add-ons and gizmos that most users don't need?

HTML is part of the Internet platform. The platform will have many services. Everyone won't need every service. However, making lots of services available for rich communications is the right thing to do.

Q: If these technologies will be all-pervasive, cross-platform, and scaleable from top to bottom, will we end up with a system that is adequate at most things but master of none? After all, the history of computing is littered with examples of exploiting non-portable additions to gain an advantage.

The Internet platform runs on top of existing and future devices. If it weren't cross-platform, it wouldn't be nearly as valuable as it is. As the market has proved, Netscape technologies are the master of many things.

Q: What will happen with the pricing models? Why will anyone pay Netscape for SuiteSpot when Microsoft is giving away access and server tools?

Don't be fooled by what Microsoft says is "free." In fact, Microsoft charges lots of money for its mail and discussion server (Exchange) and charges lots of money for its database. Microsoft isn't really giving away much, so we see the pricing on Netscape FastTrack and SuiteSpot servers as very aggressive compared to the Microsoft offering.

Microsoft's BackOffice strategy is to force customers to take the weak products in their server line. We hear that SMS is widely regarded as a second-rate management solution. Most customers don't require an SNA Server everywhere they have a mail server. However, Microsoft makes you pay for these products whether you like it or not. SuiteSpot, in contrast, offers flexible pricing. You pay for only what you want. If you don't want Netscape Mail Server, for example, you can exchange it for credit toward any of the other servers. (See "Netscape: Hitting the SuiteSpot," on page 24, for a price comparison.)

Q: Now that Microsoft intends to make the browser part of the operating system and give that browser the capability to embed everything from Java objects, to Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) custom control (OCX) objects, to JavaScript, to Visual Basic Script (VBScript), to DocObjects-enabled OLE applications, to ActiveX components. How does this situation affect Netscape?

Netscape will not bow out of the browser market--in fact we are very committed to it. We've got more than a 75% share in the most important market in the computing industry, and a sizable portion of our revenue comes from our client-side products. Netscape bowing out of the browser market would be the equivalent of Microsoft bowing out of the operating system business because IBM bundled OS/2 with its PCs. The idea just doesn't make sense.

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