and other OS vendors will announce by the end of the month plans to
embed Java directly into their operating systems, a decision that will open the
market for Java applets to all applications, not just Web
At Internet World in San Jose next week, Sun
Microsystems will make a concerted
push, along with Microsoft, IBM, and other
companies, to make Java a standard feature of desktop operating systems.
IBM officials confirmed that the company will participate in Sun's new
initiative, which is consistent with its strategy to use Java
in several of its software offerings, including OS/2 and Notes.
Microsoft officials would not comment, but Sun
officials confirmed that the Redmond, Washington, software giant is involved. Novell last month already unveiled plans
to make Java part
of its NetWare operating system.
Until now, Microsoft's publicly stated plan was to support Java in the next
version of its Internet
Explorer browser and then bundle the browser into Windows 95. In contrast, a
Java engine embedded directly into Windows will allow a broad range of
applications, including word processors, spreadsheets, and databases, to run
Java applets, which are accessible over the Internet.
Microsoft has not determined when the Java-savvy version of Windows will be
available, but it considers the marriage of the two technologies a priority,
according to sources. The decision may conclude Microsoft's apparent
wavering between supporting Java and promoting its own ActiveX controls
architecture for small, single-purpose applications like applets. The
company has already gone from an apparent reluctance to even sign a
licensing agreement last December to an announcement in March that the
company would develop its own Java development tools to the decision to
embed Java in its crown jewel: Windows.
The Microsoft decision is a tacit acknowledgement of Java's role as a de
facto Internet standard. Netscape Communications' Navigator 2.0
is currently the only commercially available application that supports Java.
language's popularity is due in large part to the phenomenal popularity of
Navigator, Microsoft hopes it can steal the show from its browser rival by
adding native support for Internet technologies, including TCP/IP and
hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), to its operating system.
Sun, for its part, wants to see Java as ubiquitous as Windows itself. The
new focus on supporting Java in the OS is expected to be especially
encouraging to the growing community of Java developers, who will be able to
create applications that run outside of Web browsers.
"It makes a lot of sense. This way you don't have to have a separate
run time for every application," said Kim Polese, former product manager for
Java at Sun and co-founder of a start-up company that develops Java
applications. "Web browsers are one platform for [Java] applications, but
they're not the only one. They are not even the ideal platform for
applications because they are text-centric."
IBM also plans to make Java a feature on all of its operating systems,
including OS/2, AIX, MVS, and OS/400, as well as its groupware platform,
Lotus Notes. "I have never thought of Java as a browser technology," said
vice president of Internet Technology at IBM. "The browser has captured the
world's imagination because it's so visible. The potential of Java extends
beyond that. [Java] is not the panacea to all of the problems of Internet,
but it is a very important technology for extending network computing."
With Java's presence ever-expanding, a new Netscape vs. Microsoft rivalry
may ensue over Java performance.
This week, Netscape announced that Navigator will get a Java performance
boost through the addition of Borland
International's just-in-time Java compiler, a second-generation Java
engine that will accelerate the speed of applets five- to ten-fold.
Microsoft will fire back with its own just-in-time Java compiler, to be
bundled initially in Internet Explorer 3.0 this summer and
eventually directly into Windows, according to sources close to the company.
IBM also plans to offer its own just-in-time compiler, Patrick said.
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