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Ellison damns Netscape-AOL deal

But the lad has a curious, and somewhat partial, perpective

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Larry Ellison has been telling Australia that Netscape is dead, and that the industry must unite against Microsoft, according to local reports. But is this the sound of grinding axes we hear? In Ellison's view the AOL takeover is the death-knell for Netscape. AOL simply wants Netscape for the Netcenter portal, and isn't interested in Netscape's technology. If we take this to its logical conclusion, then it means that AOL is perfectly willing to let Netscape's Web server business slide, and quite possibly has no real interest in further development of Navigator. But in that case, the large sums of money that AOL has expended on Netscape and on retention of Netscape staff surely look to have been flushed straight down the drain. At the same time, the effective subsidies of the deal by Sun (which were covered round these parts, if not elsewhere) are wasted too. So we don't believe Larry, do we? Netscape may be dead in the long run, but if it is it will be because AOL doesn't understand its business rather than because it doesn't want it. Why, then, is Larry mouthing-off? In addition to wanting Netcenter, AOL saw the Netscape deal as bringing it two things - expertise and technology in Web server development, and the ability to develop an 'AOL Anywhere' strategy. Both of these development routes couldn't be pursued without extremely close relations with Sun. The second is meanwhile particularly interesting because we're talking about set-top boxes, portable devices and the like which, logically, will start gluing together Netscape microbrowser technology and Sun Java. These devices could then be used in conjunction with Sun-Netscape hardware-software combinations at the Web server end. Maybe then the reason Larry says Netscape is dead is because in that picture there's no obvious need for the presence of a company beginning with O. Oracle is allied with Sun, certainly, but in it's also possible - certain, if its plans succeed - that in the longer term Sun will pose a threat to Oracle. ®

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