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IBM finishes first

IBM may beat Microsoft and Netscape in becoming the first to provide Java-friendly Windows 3.1.

Netscape Communications and Microsoft are toiling away on Windows 3.1 versions of Java for their Web browsers due out later this year, but both have been beat to the punch this month by IBM.

The company will give developers a taste of Java on Windows 3.1, still the most prevalent desktop operating system, by the end of August, according to company officials.

Because Java requires a multithreaded OS, vendors have had their hands full porting the software to the 16-bit, non-multithreaded Windows 3.1. That means that the majority of PC users--49 percent of all PC users by Microsoft's own estimates--have been left with Java-less browsers.

Netscape officials say the company is hard at work adding Java to Navigator on Windows 3.1, although it had originally hoped to deliver it this month. But Netscape won't make its deadline: The new Navigator 3.0 version of the browser ships Monday.

Microsoft wants to push users toward Windows 95 and NT, but has nonetheless pledged to have a Java-enabled Internet Explorer for Windows 3.1 out by the end of the year. Today, the company introduced an interim release of Internet Explorer for Windows 3.1, version 2.1, which supports background sounds, animated GIFs, and enhanced frames, but not Java.

IBM hopes to beat both companies with Java support for Windows 3.1, though initially it will offer only a Java development kit for building Java into Windows 3.1 applications, not an actual Java-enabled browser.

Big Blue plans to post an alpha version of the Java Development Kit for Windows 3.1, which includes the Java Virtual Machine client software for running applets, on a new Web site called AlphaWorks, said David Gee, Java marketing manager at IBM. The JDK is designed to help developers get Java applets and applications running on Windows 3.1.

Within a few weeks, however, IBM will post a Windows 3.1 version of HotJava, Sun Microsystems' Java-enabled browser, that will give Net surfers on that platform a chance to view Web pages with applets embedded in them for the first time.

According to IBM's Gee, the company will encourage developers to play with its Java software and could ultimately license it to other companies, including other companies that make browsers. "The objective is to free the tens of millions of Windows 3.1 desktops out there from being Java-challenged," he said. "Still, the vast majority of the desktops out there are on Windows 3.1."

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