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JavaOne has servers in mind

Moving beyond desktops to underpin server applications will be one mantra at next week's JavaOne developer conference.

It's the server, stupid.

That will be the unspoken message at next week's JavaOne developer conference, where an estimated 8,500 Java acolytes will descend on San Francisco to hear Sun Microsystems (SUNW) and a cadre of its Java partners talk about the future of the technology. Several Sun executives, including chief executive officer Scott McNealy and Java inventor James Gosling, will deliver keynotes at the conference.

Among the themes Sun, IBM, and other companies will emphasize is how Java will move beyond desktop computers to form the underpinnings of server applications. The vendors hope corporations will be lured by the potential to develop and run an application that spans multiple operating systems without having to be written for each one.

In addition to servers, Sun has its sights set on small devices such as cell phones, smart cards, and pagers and promises to articulate a more coherent strategy for extending Java to those platforms.

"We will be talking about Java gets big and Java gets small," said Jon Kannegaard, vice president of software products at Sun's JavaSoft division.

So far, Java has lacked an enterprise framework that allows developers to easily create applications for servers. JavaSoft hopes to remedy that soon and will next week announce such a framework that uses new and existing Java APIs from the company.

Sun will also try to deflect criticism that Java applications are slower than programs written in other languages by discussing for the first time new performance-boosting technology it has acquired from LongView Technologies, also called Animorphic Systems. SunSoft, the software application arm of Sun, will officially introduce a development tool called JavaStudio--formerly code-named Project Studio--for assembling applications out of JavaBeans components.

Next week, IBM will sound the server gong as well. Big Blue is developing a collection of JavaBeans components--known as Enterprise Beans--that will shuffle data between clients and back-end IBM applications, such as CICS transaction server and DB2 databases. 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.

IBM also plans to enter beta testing for its VisualAge for Java, a development tool that, like SunSoft's JavaStudio will allow programmers to build applications out of JavaBeans.

The most controversial licensee of Java, Microsoft, will also be at JavaOne in full force. CEO Bill Gates will personally outline the software giant's Java strategy on Wednesday. Ironically, Gates will deliver his speech at a separate developer conference happening across the street in San Francisco from JavaOne. Sun and its allies have criticized Microsoft for trying to tie Java developers into Windows.

As part of its strategy announcement next week, Microsoft is expected to introduce new Java APIs and class libraries which it will promote as superior alternatives to elements of Sun's Java Development Kit. Microsoft will also announce more than a dozen vendors that have agreed to support its Application Foundation Classes (AFCs), a set of Java libraries for creating graphical user interfaces, in their products.

"I'm expecting there to be a lot of talk [next week] about 100 percent pure Java," said David Smith, an analyst at the Gartner Group. "And we'll see Microsoft wanting to play a more active role in the evolution of Java."

Several other software developers will showcase new technologies next week as well:

  • DimensionX will release a Macintosh version of its Liquid Motion Pro 2D animation tool and will ship Liquid Reality SDK, a toolkit for developing 3D applications.
  • Marimba will introduce a support program for developers writing applications for Castanet.