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Java suite battle heats up

Corel is set to release server-based Java components as part of its Office for Java application suite.

Corel (COSFF) will post the server side of its Office for Java suite in mid-March, company representatives told CNET today.

With the news, Corel stays a step ahead of Lotus Development, which this weekend will post a view-only demonstration of one of its own Java productivity applications, code-named Kona.

The server side of Office for Java will be included for the first time when Corel updates the "pre-beta" version currently available from the company's Web site. Since the client side of Office for Java is not much more than an interface, all data import-export, printing, and spell checking will take place on the server side. Most document storage will also be on the server, although some local storage will be permitted.

"The client and server will be available via password on an FTP site," said Chris Biber, Corel's director of strategic alliances. "It won't be a restrictive thing, there won't be a litmus test [to get the password]. But the server component is of primary interest in rolling out to larger organizations, and we want to know who those organizations are."

The current version includes a client-side word processor, spreadsheet, charting tool, a calendar, address book and email, and a desktop for file management and overview.

Written entirely in the Java programming language, both Office for Java and Kona are attempts to give corporate network users a slimmed-down, server-based set of applications that provide only the functions absolutely necessary to a user's task. Corel's upcoming client-server beta will be the first chance for businesses to road test Java applications administered from a server. It will also include a new presentation graphics module, Biber said.

Both Office for Java and Kona applications are Java "beans," which means they adhere to the Java Beans standard and can be glued together using Java development tools to make new applications. Each bean is also a container that can hold other beans, so a WordPerfect for Java document could host a spreadsheet component, for example.

Dominated by Microsoft Office in the business application market, both Corel and Lotus have turned to Java to try to pull disgruntled users and network administrators away from the Microsoft-Intel platform's ever-escalating processor and hard disk requirements. Lotus's new SmartSuite 97--which in fact has a larger minimum installation requirements than Office 97--is scheduled for an upgrade that will let it run Kona applications as early as next year, Lotus product manager Brian Anderson said yesterday.

Corel's Biber is hazier about his company's plans to integrate its Office for Java apps with the traditional Office Pro and WordPerfect suite products, saying only that "support for Java applets is planned."

The final version of Office for Java is scheduled for May. Kona will enter beta in April and ship in late summer. Pricing for either suite has not yet been determined.