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Pure Java Navigator brewing

Netscape and Sun agree to develop a "100 percent pure Java" version of the Navigator Web browser.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) is putting its all-Java browser plans on a fast track by licensing technology from Sun Microsystems (SUNW), the companies said today.

Netscape will use as-yet-unspecified parts of Sun's HotJava browser to develop a "100 percent pure Java" version of the Navigator Web browser by "the early part of next year," according to Netscape spokeswoman Jennifer O'Mahony.

"We're not using someone else's browser as much as we're using Java technology to help us ship [the all-Java Navigator] in a more aggressive time frame," said O'Mahony.

In return, Sun plans to ship Navigator as the standard browser included with its products, including the JavaStation network Related story: Sun CEO sees Java everywhere computer. The company will also include Netscape's JavaBean-based HTML rendering component as part of the Java Development Kit.

"The HTML component, which puts HTML up on screen, is already at the core of the browser, so we've already done a lot of work," said Mike Homer, Netscape vice president for sales and marketing. "But our engineers will have to determine what parts to use."

Sun 's JavaSoft division launched the "100 percent pure" campaign earlier this year to promote Java applications that aren't tied to one specific platform, namely Microsoft's Windows. The campaign hit a snag when JavaSoft added a "100 percent pure pending" label for developers having trouble getting their applications up to full-Java speed.

The company quickly backed away from the "pending" label. Instead, it has added a feedback page for developers. The release of a user-friendly, pure-Java Navigator would be a coup for the campaign, which as of last month boasted 36 pure-Java applications but no major-brand consumer software. The one mainstream all-Java business application, Corel Office for Java, has been delayed and renamed "CorelCentral" as Corel executives admitted last week that their initial design for the product was misguided.

Today's Netscape-Sun deal follows Netscape's announcement that it would offer Navigator 4.0 as a separate standalone product and continue to include it in the Communicator suite. (See related story)

Earlier this summer, Netscape chief technology officer Marc Andreessen promised delivery of a pure-Java version of its Communicator software next year, but today's announcement relates only to Navigator. It is too early to say if other Communicator components, such as the Netcaster "push" client, will be part of the all-Java Navigator, said O'Mahony. Netcaster is already a pure-Java application.