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SGI does Windows with Java

Even as it ties itself closer and closer to Java, Silicon Graphics is still struggling to refashion itself as a serious Windows developer.

Even as it ties itself closer and closer to Java, Silicon Graphics (SGI) is still struggling to refashion itself as a more serious Windows developer.

At JavaOne next week, SGI will announce that it is creating a version of Cosmo Code, its Java development tool, for Windows NT and 95. The announcement is part of grander SGI plan unveiled in January to deliver programs that run other platforms, not just SGI's niche-oriented Irix operating system.

Next week, SGI will also announce that it is fusing Java VRML (virtual reality modeling language) technology more closely. The company will update Cosmo Player, its 3D VRML viewer, to support JavaBeans, a budding technology from Sun Microsystems that enables Java programs to cooperate with programs written in other languages.

But there's an irony in SGI's strategy to straddle the Java and Windows worlds. Java was designed to let developers write applications that run on any operating system or hardware, whether a Pentium PC or Sun workstation running Solaris. If its promise of complete platform independence holds true, Java could help bolster SGI's and other's platforms by expanding of the number of applications they can run.

At the same time, SGI knows that it can best contribute to the development of cross-platform Java applications by delivering its programming tools on the platforms that dominate today--Windows 95 and, increasingly, Windows NT.

"We're not just a hardware vendor with some software on our platform," said John McCrea, director of marketing for Cosmo software. "We're getting very serious about being a leader in tools for the next generation of the Web."

SGI will make Cosmo Code for Windows 95 and NT available in the second half of this year. It includes tools for creating, analyzing, and debugging Java applications. Pricing has not yet been set for the tool.

By supporting JavaBeans in Cosmo Player, SGI hopes it can create new applications for VRML, a standard technology for displaying 3D environments. Using the Java Beans API in Cosmo Player, a developer could, for example, pull financial data from a database using a Java application then render it as a 3D display through VRML.

Interestingly, both Cosmo Code and Cosmo Player for Windows 95 will be written in native code, not in Java. Because they involve the design and display of graphic-intensive 3D environments, the programs require better performance than pure Java applications can currently provide.