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Corel plans Java-based NC software

Not content to stand by while competitors tout Java strategies, Corel plans to revive Java-based products for NCs.

Canadian software maker Corel, not content to stand by while competitors tout Java strategies, plans to revive its own Java-based products for Network Computers.

Code-named Alta, Corel's latest Java application follows the company's abortive first attempt at a pure Java version of its business application suite. That project was scrapped in August after the beta version was criticized for its bugginess and poor performance.

As previously reported by CNET's NEWS.COM, Corel is also working on Java technology code-named Remagen that would allow Windows NT-based applications to run on any operating system with a Java Virtual Machine, including Network Computers (NC).

Targeted toward workgroups (departmental-sized groups in the corporate environment), Alta is focused around Corel Central, the personal information manager and scheduler that will ship at the end of next summer.

Corel developers say Alta includes a Java Web-like interface and will include a universal in-box for managing faxes, voice mail, and email messages, along with a word processor, group calendaring, and scheduling components.

According to Corel's vice president of software development, Paul Skillen, Alta embraces XML (extensible markup language) and HTML as its document delivery mechanism through a Web browser. "It will be a task-based user interface. It will be different than the usual browser interface because it will unfold as you work."

Remagen, a software layer that lets PC applications run on top of an NC's Java-enhanced operating system, is comparable to Citrix's Winframe software, which also allows server-based PC applications to run on "dumb terminals"--for example, the hard disk-less machines that bank tellers use to access information from a central server. The difference is that Remagen translates the NT application code to Java class libraries and takes up less network bandwidth, according to the company.

Remagen is set to ship in the first quarter of 1998, according to Corel.

Corel is touting Alta and Remagen as its premier Java applications for NCs, but also as packages that will revitalize existing hardware.

Skillen said the new Corel Java applications are not replacements for office suites. "They are light versions of applications for the desktop. Remagen, for example puts Java [applications] in full-blown work off of the server." Alta allows a company to extend a consistent application to any user on any hardware platform or OS, Skillen added.

Earlier this week, all of the Java heavyweights--Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and IBM--were well represented at the premiere of Lotus Development's eSuite software premiere in New York City.

The eSuite product line features eSuite Workplace, a desktop package of applets including email, a word processor, spreadsheet, calendar, chart presentation graphics, and an address book. All run on any device that supports Java, including NCs and PCs.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft executives have publicly backed away from any Java strategy for their Microsoft Office business suite. Microsoft desktop application product manager Andrew Dixon said Java is too slow, doesn't offer Office customers anything new, and isn't scalable enough. "Why be limited? We don't see it meeting the needs of our customers right now."

Corel, which took over the WordPerfect business application suite from Novell in January 1996, has been an early and vocal proponent of Java in an effort to chip away at Microsoft's dominance of the desktop application market.