As previously reported by CNET, Sun Microsystems today announced a shift in strategy that is expected to significantly increase the use of its high-profile Java programming language for the Internet.
The company was joined by ten software vendors in announcing plans to make Java a standard feature of operating systems on desktops, workstations, servers, and portable devices.
The vendors planning to incorporate Java into their systems include Microsoft, IBM, Apple Computer, Silicon Graphics, SCO, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, Tandem, and Hitachi, as well as Sun's own SunSoft division.
Among the individual OS vendors, Apple announced its intention to incorporate Java into its Macintosh, Pippin, and Newton operating systems; Sun will put Java into Solaris; and IBM will put Java into OS/2, AIX, OS/400, and MVS.
For Sun, the announcement means that it can now take Java beyond a mainly browser technology to let Internet applets run through standard PC applications, such as word processors or spreadsheets. The deal is also intended to provide a spur to Java development, said Bill Joy, a Sun co-founder and vice president of research.
"This will let developers know that Java will be available as a systems service," he said. "It's good news for users because vendors will be optimizing, tuning [the Java engine] for respective platforms."
Under the new initiative, Sun will provide each of the OS vendors with the Java engine, called the Java Virtual Machine, and Java Class Libraries. Each vendor will then become the custodian of Java on its platform, optimizing the engine for system performance and ensuring that Java applets, which are intended to be platform independent, run just as well on their systems as on others.
One of the most significant shows of support for Java came from Microsoft, which nevertheless portrayed the announcement as a promotion not so much of Java as much as its own ActiveX Control framework for the Internet. The company said Java will be just one of the languages that can be used to write ActiveX Controls.