Apple was one of several OS makers to announce plans back in April to incorporate Java into their operating systems, including Microsoft, IBM, Novell, Silicon Graphics, and SCO. But Apple is the first to get a first implementation out the door.
Its Runtime kit is the warm-up act before the main event of building Java right into the Mac OS. Until that happens, the Runtime software gives Macintosh users the basic set of tools needed to run Java applets on the desktop or within Cyberdog, Apple's new suite of Internet-friendly software based on the OpenDoc component architecture.
The Runtime includes a Java Virtual Machine, standard Java classes, and two different applet viewers, one that allows Java applets to play in Cyberdog, and one that works as a stand-alone program on the desktop.
This beta version, however, does not include a just-in-time compiler, which allows the operating system to execute applets more quickly by translating them into a platform's native code. Apple licensed Virtual Machine technology and a just-in-time compiler from Natural Intelligence in May, but will not use them until the final release later this year.
"Right now we're using just what we licensed from Sun," said Ricardo Gonzalez, manager of Apple's developer tools product marketing group. "It's a much more generic virtual machine so that as many developers as possible can use it."
The final version of the Runtime software, including the compiler, will be integrated into an upcoming version of the Mac OS as early as January 1997.
Microsoft officials say that although Java doesn't yet ship with Windows 95 itself, Internet Explorer 3.0 has a just-in-time compiler that allows other applications on the desktop to use Java, once Explorer is installed on the computer's hard drive. Explorer 3.0 will be included in an update of Windows 95 due to ship later this month. Windows NT won't have Java until the release after 4.0, for which a date has not been set.
The company has also developed a Java Virtual Machine to integrate into the upcoming Internet Explorer browser for Macintosh, which they demonstrated this week at Macworld Expo. The Mac browser will also support Active X, QuickTime VR, and QuickDraw 3D.
IBM's latest version of OS/2, code named Merlin, will have its own Java-compatible browser in addition to full support of Java when it ships in September. IBM is also talking to Netscape Communications about a native version of the Navigator browser for OS/2, an IBM spokesperson said.
Novell, working furiously to stave off competition from Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, will distribute a developers' kit with a Java Virtual Machine for NetWare at a developer conference in Florida this December. The version of NetWare complete with Java, code named Moab, is slated for release in late 1997.
Windows NT won't have Java until the next version (i.e., after the just-released 4.0). There is no timetable for its release.