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Netscape is like Saddam Hussein – Sun exec

The tortured screams of starving, oppressed programmers echo from the cellars of the HQ, apparently...

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The status of Sun's relationship with its Java-loving ally Netscape came into some question yesterday when Microsoft attorney Thomas Burt produced one of the trial's most colourful emails so far. Java inventor James Gosling had been explaining how thoroughly Netscape was committed to Java, but in 1996 another Sun exec had different ideas. "They are completely untrustworthy," wrote VP of software products Jon Kannegaard. "No agreement with Netscape is worth the ink it's written with. Go sign a deal with Saddam Hussein. It has a better chance of being honoured." Saddam, we think, must be Jim Barksdale since Marc Adreessen lacks the age and gravitas for the part. But he could be Saddam's spoiled sprog, careering around Silicon Valley's nightspots in the small hours, casually shooting rivals. But why was Kannegaard so het up? Possibly because in September 1996, when the email was written, Netscape looked like it might be a rival to Sun, or at least to Sun's Java strategy. In November, at Comdex, Jim Barksdale would go public with the plan that would become Communicator. It didn't quite pan out the way he wanted, but at the start Netscape's target was basically to grab the desktop back from Microsoft, and provide users with an alternative, Netscape-owned place to live, browse the Web from and launch applications from. Java might come in handy for this -- but then again, it might not. The plan was scarcely original. Lotus had sort of tried to do it with Notes, and IBM had tried to integrate Windows into the OS/2 Workplace Shell. You may also recall that a little while down the line Lotus had a spat with Netscape over the latter's refusal to unbundle Navigator from Communicator. This stuff certainly supports Microsoft's 'everybody does it' case, which although probably of negligible value for an antitrust defence (see Registers passim) is helpful from the PR point of view. But Burt seems to have used it solely to illustrate that Sun and Netscape weren't always friends, and maybe to get a few laughs. In similar vein he also produced an email from Saddam junior to Scott McNealy of Sun. "Now is the time to strike together on this," Andreessen wrote of Microsoft in 1995. "Let's nail the bastards." Unfortunately for Andreessen, Saddam senior must have refused to let him have the keys to the family SCUD. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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