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Lotus chief gets Java fever

Lotus Development president Jeff Papows today went on a 100 percent pure Java crusade, calling it our "last and best hope for a cross-platform solution."

ATLANTA--Lotus Development president Jeff Papows today went on a crusade for 100 percent pure Java, calling the programming language our "last and best hope for a cross-platform solution."

In a speech at the opening day of Spring Comdex, Papows said, "If we screw this up, we all are going to be enormous losers."

Papows said a "unifying technology" is crucial to industry growth. Otherwise, development costs will rise for vendors and users will get new technology at a slower pace.

Lotus, and its parent company IBM, have long been vocal supporters of Java. But today's endorsement was particularly vehement.

Lotus itself plans to come out with Java applets in September. "We've got the largest commercial Java effort underway," he said. The company sees Java as a way to diminish a reliance on any single operating system, specifically the Windows operating systems belonging to Microsoft.

Sun Microsystems' one hundred-percent pure Java campaign--launched late last year--encourages developers to create Java applications that are portable across all operating systems instead of producing programs anchored to Windows 95, Macintosh, or Unix.

But many developers complain that it is difficult, if not impossible, to write their applications entirely in Java code. These developers cite lack of support for critical functions, like printing, not to mention slow performance. This has led Microsoft to accuse Sun of being dogmatic about Java purity.

But in his speech, Papows also said software companies are giving users more features than they need or want. He observed: "There is a great deal of technology for technology's sake in American business today." The implication is that Java's relative simplicity would help to avert this tendency.

Despite his fervent calls to support Java, however, Papows also warned against becoming "polarized and going to one camp or another," a reference to the long-running feud between Microsoft and Sun.

He also warned the audience not to succumb to the hype that surrounds many products designed to improve productivity. He pointed to pen-based computing, personal digital assistants such as Newton, and Microsoft's ill-fated interface for new computer users called "Bob."

Overall, Papows said, the information technology sector is poised for enormous growth. Some 40 percent of the capital outlay by U.S. businesses goes to information technology, compared with only 7 percent in 1970, he said.

The industry has grown to a $840 billion a year, compared with $78 billion in 1976, he added. And the Internet "is becoming the dial tone of our industry," he said.

Business-to-business e-commerce offers one of the greatest growth potentials, he said. It could be nearly a $160 billion business by the year 2000, compared with less than $20 billion for retail e-commerce.