For years, the software companies have hitched their future to Java to combat rival Microsoft. They're all gunning for a piece of the lucrative market for e-business software that enables companies to share data and conduct trades online. They're also racing to offer the technology that businesses need to build Web-based software and services.
The software makers this week will announce new Java products to improve and fill holes in their product portfolio, said Gartner analyst Mark Driver. "Everyone is coming out to push out their latest and greatest."
Oracle on Monday announced it has jazzed up its application server with improved Java support to better compete against market-share leaders BEA and IBM, which have captured 35 percent and 30 percent of the $1.6 billion market, respectively. Application-server software allows businesses to handle e-commerce and other Web site transactions.
Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison recently blamed his company's poor showing in the application-server market on its poor support of Java. Oracle executives now say the company's product is finally up to snuff.
Oracle has rebuilt its application server to make Java software run faster than it previously could, said John Magee, senior director of Oracle 9i marketing. "Oracle has not been known for its core Java support. Now we have made major enhancements to make (the server) faster and smaller."
The database-software giant, like its rivals, is supporting the new version of a Java-based standard for writing business software. The standard, called Java 2 Enterprise Edition, is a uniform way for companies to build business software using the Java language. At its core is the Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) programming model, which lets developers create reusable pieces of software code and is a direct competitor to Microsoft's programming model.
Not to be outdone, BEA on Monday is releasing several new products, including a version of its application server that supports new Web standards that allow people to build Web-based software and services. Oracle's new application server supports the new Web standards as well. All the software companies have been racing to develop and sell software for building and delivering Web services, which let people access software through the Web instead of from individual PCs.
To fill gaps in its e-business product family, BEA also announced a new integration server, software that allows businesses to link their different computing systems so they can exchange data and conduct business over the Web. The company also announced new portal software, which allows businesses to create Web portal sites for their employees, partners and suppliers.
IBM, which last week announced similar application-server features to be released later this summer, said that its WebSphere application server will support a new Java standard that will make it simpler for telecommunications service providers to offer new, fancy features to telephone subscribers.
Hewlett-Packard will announce a small, lightweight version of its application server, so software developers who are writing business software can integrate an application server into their product.
Sun executives say the company will release a high-end Java software development tool to better compete against WebGain, Borland and IBM, which have traditionally led the market in Java tools for writing software.
Sun's Forte for Java Enterprise Edition supports EJBs and includes features that allow members of a software-development team to work closely together on the same project. Sun needed to release the high-end tool to help augment sales of its iPlanet family of application servers and other e-business software, analysts say.
"Their previous Forte for Java tools were entry level at best. It was a hobbyist tool and not used by the bulk of commercial developers," said Gartner's Driver.
iPlanet, an alliance between Sun and America Online, on Monday is releasing new messaging software that allows business messages to be sent back and forth from company to company.
Borland is announcing that software giant SAP has chosen its product for developing Java. Borland also recently announced that it has built a new Java development tool for Nokia, allowing software programmers to write Java software for Nokia phones. Borland executives said they plan to offer Java tools for other cell phone manufacturers in the future.
WebGain, formerly Symantec's Java tools division, also announced new versions of its tools, which include features such as the ability to test and debug software.
Even Intel is getting into the act, ponying up cash to be a gold sponsor of the software show, despite its hardware rivalry with Sun. Intel will tout its Developer Services for Java, a program to help companies fine-tune and promote their Java software running on Intel-based computers.
The Intel program also makes it easier for programmers to get access to computers that use Intel's new Itanium server chip. IBM is providing Java programming tools for Itanium, Intel said.
Also on the hardware front, IBM will announce that it has beaten Sun and Hewlett-Packard in releasing Java for use on 64-bit servers--a development that allows the use of much more memory than that available with 32-bit Java. The new IBM Java Developer Kit, version 1.3.0, works on IBM's Unix servers. Big Blue, which is Java's biggest supporter after Sun, also will boast that its servers outpace Sun's own on Java speed measurements.
News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.