Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Sun seeks widespread Java brand

The computer maker plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to emblazon all manner of computing products with a new Java logo.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science Credentials
  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
4 min read
Sun Microsystems will spend tens of millions of dollars to emblazon all manner of computing products with a new Java logo, the company plans to unveil next week at its JavaOne conference.

Under the branding campaign, everything from cash registers and microchip-enabled "smart cards" to TV set-top boxes and video recorders will carry the logo, said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive vice president of software. The campaign is geared to convince ordinary people, not just programmers and computer experts, that Java carries value, he said.

Business partners that ship Java products will share in the effort, whose total budget will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. The campaign will try to convince consumers that they're getting value--security and the ability to safely download programs--with Java devices, he said.

"The branding...will be in concert with some large organizations with a lot of experience in consumer branding," Schwartz said. "It's just as much in Motorola's interests as Vodafone's as ours to promote that brand."

Partnerships also will figure prominently in several other announcements at JavaOne, Schwartz said, including a plan under which phone service companies will join with PC makers to offer Java-based smart cards that can be used to authenticate a computer user's identity.

Sun also plans to disclose partnerships with top-tier Intel server makers that will back Sun's Solaris operating system on their servers and with PC makers that will back Java, Schwartz said.

Java--developed initially by Sun but now with involvement from numerous other companies--lets a program written in the Java programming language run on many types of computers without having to be changed for each one. There are different categories of Java designed for various classes of devices such as cell phones, desktop computers and servers.

Because it minimizes differences between different computing devices, such as Nokia and Nextel cell phones or Windows and Linux PCs, Java has the potential to undercut Microsoft's power. Sun is trying to do just that, encouraging the programmers of the world to focus on how many Java environments, called "virtual machines," exist, not how many Windows computers exist.

"In terms of total shipments of Java virtual machines, we are exceeding on an annual basis the PC industry," Schwartz said. A major portion of that includes Java-enabled cell phones, 200 million of which should ship in 2003, he said.

Sun's business long has been selling servers--powerful machines that handle data processing and storage tasks on a network--but Java is part of an effort to increase the importance of software in those machines. Java, along with Solaris and the Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) server software suite, let Sun hold influence even as it lets outside technology such as Intel and AMD processors or the Linux operating system into its fold.

"It is certainly my objective and the objective of my team--James Gosling, John Fowler, John Loiacono, Anil Gadre--to make software the most aggressive competitive weapon it's been in the history of Sun Microsystems," Schwartz said. "Java allows us to touch and influence a vast array of network elements that very few other companies can match."

Room for improvement
As a competitive weapon, though, Java has had some significant rusty spots. While Java has attracted a large developer community, the programming tools Sun provides need to be better, Sun acknowledges.

Java developers "have been pushing us to drive a level of ease of use and productivity that, to be blunt, Microsoft set the bar with Visual Studio," Schwartz said. "We're really ramping up our focus and investment around delivering a much stronger competitor to Visual Studio."

IBM, Red Hat and others have been pushing Java development tools in the open-source Eclipse project, but Schwartz disparages that effort for undermining Java's independence from particular computers. "Eclipse is really the wrong direction. It's about binding your applications to an operating system," he said.

In another effort to boost Java's fortunes, Sun will announce more liberal licensing terms under which researchers will be able to tinker with the Java technology, Schwartz said.

"We're going to really try to go after relaxing the licensing terms in the community of researchers and folks who want to do fundamental research and development in computer languages. We are going to announce a fundamental shift in the licensing around Java to enable really open-source development for research activities," Schwartz said.

A key area where Sun will tout Java is on mobile phones, Schwartz said. The company and its partners will unveil improvements that make it easier to link Java programs running on mobile phones with Java programs running on servers in the network. Java phones today are popular in some areas for playing games, but Sun believes the new technology will make them useful in meeting the long-promised goals of making Java phones useful to businesses, too.

"Increasingly, customers will use devices to check mail, check their calendar, check order status, purchase orders, expense reports, which will require applications to interact from a Java 2 Micro Edition-enabled cell phone with a Java 2 Enterprise Edition infrastructure," Schwartz said.

Many mobile phones contain a subscriber identity module (SIM) card that can run a bare-bones version of Java. Phone service carriers such as Vodafone use the card to identify the phone user, but Schwartz believes those companies could extend their domain to computers as well.

"You may see some carriers start creating relationships with PC manufacturers so PC manufacturers are shipping their PCs with a SIM in them. The SIMs will be branded by the carriers," Schwartz said. "You will be able to take a SIM out of a phone, or a smart card out of your wallet, put it into your PC and by using the Javacard standard, authenticate yourself for network transactions."