Filling the shoes of Netscape founder Marc Andreessen would give most people pause. On Sept. 10, the student-turned-billionaire stepped down as America Online's tech head to work on new business for Netscape's parent. But his replacement, longtime Sun Microsystems exec William Raduchel, may be just what AOL needs.

Raduchel's deal making is one reason Sun is so stellar. He drove the deal that gave Sun control of Netscape's software after the AOL merger last year. Now, the former Harvard professor will help AOL deliver on its plan to deliver content via all sorts of non-Web devices. "I have a deep understanding of technology that comes with 40 years of experience," says Raduchel, 53.

But leaving Sun wasn't so simple, partly because of his friendship with CEO Scott McNealy. He was McNealy's thesis adviser at Harvard. Laughs McNealy: "What am I supposed to say: `Great'? It's a real hole, but I'm thrilled to death for him." If Raduchel has his way, lots of Netizens may be thrilled, too.

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