It's hardly surprising that Netscape has struggled to attract loyal channel partners, when Netscape itself has not remained loyal to its own vision and strategies.
However, Netscape has finally found itself, according to Jim Barksdale, the company's president and chief executive officer who addressed partners and media in Melbourne last week. And now local officials are preparing to finalise the channel program it hopes will attract the channel partners needed to pull off its strategy.
"We are not a browser company any more," Barksdale told a Melbourne press contingent. Nor is Netscape an intranet company, Java, groupware or extranet company, it seems. Today, Netscape is focused on electronic commerce and helping customers build the infrastructure of the Net economy, he said.
Browsers, intranets and extranets are still important pieces of the puzzle, Barksdale said, but the place where Netscape's strategy converges is the electronic commerce arena.
But to play successfully in that ball game, Netscape needs new channel partners. "We believe we've got good products, now we have to attract good people and rebuild the expertise out there in the channel," said Netscape's newly appointed southern region manager, Tim Brewin.
That requires training. Netscape in June announced it would be rolling out the Netscape Solutions Expert program, however that was held back because the company wanted to find an appropriate training partner.
It believes it now has found that company and is currently piloting the program, with a view to officially launching it again within the next couple of weeks.
According to the company's local managing director, Rob Stewart, Netscape is keen to work with all sectors of the channel. It will rely less on retailers than it has in the past, but they will still be important for moving its low-end server products, he said. Resellers and smaller integrators are best suited to Netscape's intranet and extranet products, while larger system integrators are needed to implement electronic commerce solutions.
"We'll be training selected systems integrators, to provide them with the ability to tailor and integrate a company's electronic commerce solutions," Stewart said.
Above that, Netscape needs software developers to develop Internet applications based on the Netscape Application Server product.
"There are a lot of developers out there who may have done Cobol, or C++. Our tools can take them into the Internet space." Netscape is even looking to the large consultancy companies to work with it, to formulate electronic commerce blueprints and long-term strategies.
"We need different layers of partners and we need them to collaborate," said Stewart.
That strategy works perfectly for consultancy Fulcrum, a Netscape partner based in Melbourne. Danny Davis, principal director of Fulcrum believes that as businesses decide to get serious about the Internet, and development moves from centring on "flaming logos" to serious business applications, they will increasingly need to rely on companies like his to get the job done.
Davis is also encouraged by Netscape's desire to have partners collaborate together and hopes to work with other Netscape partners who might want to make use of his company's consulting or integration expertise.