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Java preachers try to recruit SPA

Preachers of Java religion implored the Software Publishers Association to join the crusade because it will usher in an era of competition.

WASHINGTON--On this Sunday morning, preachers of Java religion evangelized for their favorite programming language, exhorting members of the Software Publishers Association to join the crusade because it will usher in an era of competition, not monopoly, in software.

"I've heard some people in Redmond say Java is the lowest common denominator," Netscape (NSCP) chief executive James Barksdale told the software industry group at its conference here. "That's not a pejorative--that's a compliment."

Barksdale was joined by Novell (NOVL) chief executive Eric Schmidt, who was chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems (SUNW) when Sun released Java in May 1995, and Gordon Eubanks, chief executive of Symantec (SYMC), in boosting standards.

"It's time that the [software] industry accepts that you can't run a railroad if everybody has his own track width," Eubanks declared.

Sheldon Laube, chief technology officer of Internet consultancy USWeb, was conspicuously silent on the Java issue. USWeb is in a close partnership with Microsoft (MSFT), which has yet to be converted to the Java religion.

Schmidt predicted that middleware and server applications will be Java's next frontier.

"The next great area for Java development is on the server," he said. "I think Java will be the language for this new tier because there's a huge opportunity for intelligent server applications. We at Novell will write all our services in Java, to help drive it as fast as we can."

But Laube, a Novell alumnus, worried aloud that computers today are so unreliable that they may hamper the industry's growth.

"I'm getting worried about the future," Laube said, pointing to the popularity of the RegClean program as an example. "This program goes through the Windows 95 Registry and cleans it up. Why do you need something to do the cleaning? How does it get dirty?"

"I worry if the next 60 million customers will be as amused as our 60 million users are now," Laube said. The issue: "How can we make the next 60 million enjoy the power of computing without the chaos taking over the entire computing infrastructure?"

Schmidt argued that the Internet is moving the computer industry from client-server to a new "client services" model. "It is the services I procure that make the network useful," he said.

"The network is the network," Schmidt intoned, playing off the "network is the computer" mantra of his former employer Sun. At Novell, he's pushing its directory-centric model, where a directory lets user get access to their information wherever they are.

"People want more highly focused, highly personalized information," Schmidt said. "You need to care about this because it's a market where the best starters win, so you better be a player."

In other points of the religious morning:

  • Schmidt predicted that network computers initially will make inroads in the corporate market as replacements for mainframe terminals. "Terminals don't do much, so NCs don't have to do much," he said.

  • Eubanks told the software publishers they must use "try before you buy" approaches that give free trials of software. "If you're not doing that, you're not competitive," he added.