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Choose your own interface

TriTeal announces a unique technology that will allow NC users to run familiar graphical user interfaces, including Windows 95, Macintosh, and OS/2, on any Java-powered device.

TriTeal (TEAL) today announced a unique technology that will allow NC users to run familiar GUIs, including Windows 95, Macintosh, and OS/2, on any Java-powered device, as previously reported by CNET.

The technology, dubbed SoftNC, also received a boost from several companies that plan to bundle it with their NCs, including Fujitsu, WYSE Technology, Japan Computer Corporation, and Network Computing Devices.

As previously reported, sources have told CNET that TriTeal is in discussions with IBM (IBM) to bundle its software with Big Blue's network computer.

TriTeal executives would not confirm or deny that it is in talks with IBM. However, the company did say it will officially unveil SoftNC at Comdex next week running on IBM's Network Station NC.

Although it will be helped by its bundling arrangements with NC makers, TriTeal will face stiff competition from a much larger player that is staking its claim in the NC space: Sun Microsystems.

Late last month, Sun announced HotJava Views, a graphical environment that will initially work only on its JavaStation NC and later on any device that runs the Java Virtual Machine. In addition to a GUI, HotJava Views also includes email scheduling and other applications.

Both Sun and TriTeal are counting on their software becoming a kind of next-generation Windows that provides users with an interface to manage local and network files as well as launch applications on low-cost NCs. The companies' products will still require an underlying operating system, such as JavaOS, to control computer hardware, in the same way Windows 3.1 requires DOS.

However, TriTeal believes that its product may have an edge over HotJava Views because a company can customize the look and feel of the interface. The TriTeal product holds the potential for providing a single common GUI on different computers throughout the enterprise, said Jeffrey Witous, CEO of TriTeal.

"We think that the UI should be a style choice," he said. "If you like the Windows 95 launchpad, you should be able to choose that."

SoftNC will require only 1.5MB of memory and a Java Virtual Machine to run on a device. In addition to providing multiple GUI choices, the software will run Windows applications using the ICA protocol, Unix applications through the X protocol, and mainframe applications using 3270 terminal emulation, Witous said.