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Netscape components get JavaBeans

Netscape Communications will make JavaBeans the component model for all of its client, server, and developer tools products.

SAN JOSE, California--Netscape Communications' (NSCP) love affair with Sun Microsystems' (SUNW) Java technology just won't end.

Today, the company announced that it will make JavaBeans the component model for all of its client, server, and developer tools products. The news comes one day ahead of the start of its Internet developer conference here.

JavaBeans is a relatively new addition to the Java platform that governs how software components can be wired together to create useful applications. Netscape's full-fledged embrace of JavaBeans was almost a given. This week, the company shipped its Communicator Internet client and SuiteSpot 3.0 servers, both of which have some preliminary support for JavaBeans already.

In general, though, Netscape--along with Oracle, IBM, and other companies--have proclaimed that Java is the last, best hope to compete against Microsoft.

"JavaBeans is the first example of a cross-platform, Internet-centric component model," said Rick Schell, senior vice president of Netscape's client division.

Today, Netscape committed to delivering new versions of its SuiteSpot servers, code-named Apollo, in early 1998 that will fully support JavaBeans. A new version of Communicator that fully supports JavaBeans will be available in the fourth quarter, added Schell.

The expanded JavaBeans support means that developers will be able to quickly build reusable components that use the underlying capabilities of Netscape's client and servers, including access control lists, encryption, and transaction processing. The Netscape Web and directory servers already support JavaBeans, but it will expand that support to its other servers next year.

Proponents of software components have long argued that they are simpler to build and upgrade than traditional, "monolithic" applications. Although Microsoft says it will support JavaBeans in its forthcoming Internet Explorer 4.0, due to ship this summer, it has been promoting a competing component technology, ActiveX.

Today, IBM, Oracle, Netscape, and Sun also said they have devised ways to bring another component technology, CORBA (Component Object Request Broker Architecture), and JavaBeans closer together. Last week, the companies submitted a joint position paper on JavaBeans and CORBA to the object-management group standards body.

Although Netscape cited surveys of growing use of Java on the Internet, some members of the audience were skeptical that the technology has really taken off among developers. Eric Hahn, senior vice president of the company's server products division, admitted that payoff for developers who create JavaBeans might not be immediately apparent but that it would be within the next couple of years.

"Are you going to make money on this stuff now? Probably not. But we are preparing developers for the future," Hahn said.

Netscape also released today a JavaScript debugger that allows developers to clean up their JavaScript code. A beta version of the product is on Netscape's Web site.