AOL-Netscape-Sun Deal Comes to Fruition

America Online Inc. (AOL, and Sun Microsystems Inc. recently released strategic plans for the post-Netscape era. Referred to as the Sun-Netscape Alliance, AOL and Sun will focus on their e-commerce infrastructure and application software products.

First, the companies plan to quickly develop a unified, next-generation product line, with the first collaborative product to ship by the first quarter of 2000.

With the Sun-Netscape Alliance, the companies hope to unveil a family of e-commerce applications available on all platforms, including HP-UX, IBM-AIX, Linux, Windows NT/2000 and, of course, Sun Solaris. The e-commerce infrastructure product portfolio will include messaging and calendar, collaboration, Web, application, directory and certificate servers. Sun hopes these e-commerce applications will provide as much growth to its "Net Economy" as packaged enterprise applications from SAP AG, PeopleSoft Inc. and Oracle Corp. provided the ERP market.

"There are two big phenomena that make this strategic alliance a compelling opportunity," says Barry Schuler, president of AOL interactive services. "Consumers are coming online in droves and accelerating e-commerce. Second, businesses are embracing network computing on top of Internet standards as the architecture for all of their back-end systems."

In the messaging and collaboration category, Netscape and Sun will each release the other's products before a collaborative piece makes its way to market in the first quarter of 2000. For the alliance's directory, security and management servers, it will use Netscape's directory product and augment it with technology features from Sun. The alliance has already released the latest version of Sun's NetDynamics application server. The release of Netscape's application server is due later this year. The alliance will release a combined product early next year. Future enhancements to the Netscape Communicator product line are being developed by AOL.

Although some previous estimates placed job elimination at 2000, AOL says it has laid off 850 members of its workforce: about 350 to 500 from Netscape and the rest from AOL. The layoffs resulted from a redundancy in certain positions.

Despite AOL’s position as the buying party, in-house positions were not protected. The Internet giant cut from its own technology department and Internet Services Group. There were other cuts in marketing and administration. Developers and engineers were among those least likely to get laid off.

One Netscape executive has moved on and started his own company. Bill Barhydt, former technical director of strategic sales at Netscape, founded WebSentric ( The company plans to provide Web-based presentation conferencing technology to link companies from different locations around the globe.

The company's product is Presentation.Net, which offers interactive presentation content, audio, chat, user interaction and video to anyone with a standard Web browser. To convert existing presentations for Web-based conferences or to create original presentations, WebSentric offers WebPresenter, a free application available at the company's Web site.

Another former Netscaper on the WebSentric team is Christof Baumgaertner, former senior member of Netscape's Professional Services organizations, where he worked on Internet projects for large customers such as Deutsche Telekom and BMW.