Java, the programming language first developed by Sun Microsystems seven years ago for consumer devices such as set-top boxes, has been hyped using countless coffee puns as everything from a software developer's dream to a Windows killer.
Yet even after being supported by the Web's most popular browsers and spawning new industry niches devoted to the technology--including software from Marimba and an architecture for network computers from Sun and Oracle subsidiary NCI--questions remain about the workings and potential of Java. Why is it slow sometimes? Is it secure? Does it live up to its "write once, run anywhere" credo? Will it be as big a hit offline as it is on the Web?