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Java to get standardized toolkit

Sun, Netscape, and IBM team up to define development tools that give Java apps a common look and feel.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW), Netscape Communications (NSCP), and IBM (IBM) are teaming up to give Java applications a common look and feel.

The companies today announced Java Foundation Classes (JFC), tools that allow developers to build a consistent user interface into cross-platform applications. Sun expects to deliver the foundation classes as part of the next release of its Java Development Kit.

The foundation classes, which are built as JavaBeans components, are being designed by all three companies and will build on existing technologies, such as Sun's Java Abstract Windowing Toolkit and Netscape's Windowing Internet Foundation Classes.

JavaBeans is a component architecture that allows chunks of Java code to be assembled into applications. It also allows Java code to communicate with other applications.

"The net result [of JFC] is a unified framework for Java," said Rick Shell, senior vice president at Netscape.

According to James Gosling of JavaSoft, Symantec has agreed to support JFC in its Java development tool as soon as it can.

Dale Freed, member of the technical staff at software developer Omen, says the JFC gives Java developers one toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces. "It's a great thing that they're coming up with a single standard."

Netscape's Shell added the foundation classes may avert splintering industry support for Java with various toolkits. "We run the risk of fragmenting the industry with APIs [application programming interfaces] and toolkits."

However, fragmentation hasn't been avoided yet. Microsoft today is expected to announce widespread developer support for its Application Foundation Classes, a set of Java libraries for creating graphical user interfaces, in their products.