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Sun's JDK 1.2 delayed, again

Sun says its Java Development Kit 1.2, expected to ship next month, will now debut in November.

Already tardy Java development technology from Sun Microsystems has been delayed again, this time for about two months, the company confirmed today.

Sun said its Java Development Kit 1.2, which had been expected to ship next month after a delay reported by CNET News.com, will now debut in November. Also, shipment of Java performance-boosting technology called HotSpot has been rescheduled to the first quarter of next year, putting the technology more than a year behind schedule.

The delays are seen by analysts as cause for concern, especially for software makers building new products that use JDK 1.2 features. "This will slow things down a bit," said Mike Gilpin, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "[The delay] is not good for Java, and not good for independent software vendors and people hoping that Java will contribute to their future fortunes."

Sources close to the company were split on what they believed is causing the delays. Some said they are probably just routine slips that plague any major project, while others claim that JDK 1.2 and HotSpot are proving to be more complex and difficult to develop and debug than Sun expected.

A Sun representative blamed the delay on Sun's efforts to make JDK 1.2 and HotSpot as stable and as high-quality as possible before shipping. Last week at a software developers' conference, Alan Baratz, president of Sun's software group, said JDK 1.2 will be postponed until November as Sun works out final kinks.

The company confirmed today that HotSpot, much-anticipated technology intended to narrow the performance gap between Java and complied C++, will be delayed until the first quarter of next year, making the technology more than a year behind schedule.

HotSpot was announced by Sun in April 1997 at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco. At the time, Sun said it planned to ship a production release by the end of 1997. That date has been rescheduled several times now.

Like previous releases, JDK 1.2 will contain all of the technologies that make up the Java platform--including the Java Virtual Machine and class libraries--and will ultimately find its way into Java development tools, browsers, and other applications from Sun and other companies.

The JDK delay is expected to hit application server software makers the hardest, Gilpin said. IBM, Oracle, and BEA Systems are all planning to ship new Java-based application server software soon. "I would not be surprised if some of those products slipped," Gilpin said.

An Oracle representative said the delay will have no affect on its plans to ship Oracle Application Server 4.0 this fall. Neither IBM nor BEA could not be reached for comment.

Sun is hoping to avoid a repeat of the last major JDK release, when it was forced to ship a series of bug fixes almost immediately to fix stability problems.

On the bright side, for corporate IS managers and developers, the delay probably doesn't matter much. "I don't think this will cause anyone to jump off of the Java boat," Gilpin said.

But if Sun misses its November deadline for JDK 1.2, or if HotSpot fails to ship, IS users may begin to lose confidence in Sun's ability to deliver products on deadline, and they could reevaluate future plans for incorporating Java into their architectures.

JDK 1.2 is expected to substantially boost Java performance through a new just-in-time compiler, to make Java security tighter but more flexible, and to include compatibility with the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) standard, better connectivity to databases, additional support for JavaBeans component applications, and a host of other improvements.

The complete JDK 1.2 feature list is posted to Sun's Web site.