Originally announced in May, Java Beans is a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) designed to allow Java applets to communicate with software components written in other component architectures, including Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM), Netscape Communications' LiveConnect, and OpenDoc. By writing to the Java Beans APIs, a developer could create, for example, a Java spreadsheet that runs in Microsoft Word, Netscape Navigator, and ClarisWorks.
Similarly, Microsoft's ActiveX architecture allows Java applets to communicate with software components that adhere to the company's COM specifications. But Java Beans provides a bridge from Java to several different component architectures, while ActiveX limits users to Microsoft's architecture, said David Spenhoff, director of product marketing at JavaSoft.
"A lot of times, ISVs (independent software vendors) get forced into choice of writing for Windows or they're out of business," said Spenhoff. "Corporate developers can't do that. It seems to be the goal of ActiveX is to have Java developers write applications that run only on Windows."
According to Spenhoff, the Java Beans specification has already been reviewed by the Sun's chief partners for the initiative, including Netscape, IBM, Lotus Development, and Oracle. By posting the specification on its Web site, Sun (SUNW) hopes to receive comments from the wider Internet development community and to finalize Java Beans within the next two months.