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Secret weapon for Java speed

Sun plans to speed up the performance of Java applets significantly, but it's not saying how it will do so.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) plans to speed up the performance of Java applets significantly, but it's not saying how it will accomplish that feat.

Today, Sun's JavaSoft division announced that it will acquire a small start-up, LongView Technologies, which has developed technology for revving up Java applets. But JavaSoft is keeping LongView's technology under a veil of secrecy until its JavaOne developer conference in April.

At the same time, JavaSoft released the Java Development Kit 1.1, which adds new features to the development kit for creating Java applications.

The company said today that technology from LongView--also known as Animorphic Systems--will be incorporated into the Java Virtual Machine, the client engine that powers Java programs through operating systems and browsers and enables them to work on any platform. Sun's JVM has been dogged by performance problems, leading companies such Microsoft and Symantec to develop accelerators called just-in-time compilers.

"It's not a JIT compiler," said David Spenhoff, director of product marketing for JavaSoft. "It's going to be a significant improvement in performance. Details will have to wait for another six weeks."

A document posted on LongView's Web site mentioned a "virtual machine technology" called HotSpot, which, the document claimed, doubles the performance of Java applets over the best commercial compilers. The document did not provide details on how HotSpot improves the performance of applets.

Today, Dick Neiss, director of system software at LongView, said in a conference call with reporters that developers will not need to rewrite their applets to work with the new technology. "There's no reason to rewrite Java applets," Neiss said. "This will fit under the [existing Java] APIs without any new code."

Sun today said that its new JDK 1.1 includes JavaBeans APIs, for writing Java components; an improved abstract windowing toolkit, the class libraries that allow developers to create graphical user interfaces; and better connections between Java applets and databases through the JDBC API. JDK 1.1 is available on the company's Web site.