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Sun trumpets next version of Java

With great fanfare Sun Microsystems trumpets the arrival of the next version of its Java technology on the first day of its three-day Java Business Expo.

With great fanfare Sun Microsystems today trumpeted the arrival of the next version of its Java technology on the first day of its three-day Java Business Expo.

The Palo Alto, California, company announced the availability of Java 2, formerly code-named JDK 1.2, which brings improvements to Java's security, graphics, sound, user interface offerings, and other components. In addition, the new version will have faster performance, Sun executives said.

The platform is meant to be the chief environment for enterprises aiming to build and install Web-centric software applications that can run on a number of computers, servers, and other computing devices.

"The tag line that we are using is that its fast, secure, stable, and complete," said Jon Kannegaard, vice president of Java Software Platform products. "It's much faster on the server because we rewrote the innards."

In Sun's eyes, the most important feature is the Java 2's security model, Kannegaard added. "The security model in the first Java was very simple and effective," he said, noting that it was in fact too simple.

"One of the mundane news [highlights] of Java 2 is its stability," said Kannegaard. "We have gone from zero to huge in three years--Java went 'mission critical' just like that."

News of the improved Java has been percolating through the developer community for months as Sun sought feedback and bug reports on preliminary issues of 1.2. As earlier reported, JDK 1.2 was originally expected this summer, and was delayed twice while Sun worked out final kinks.

What's new with 1.2?
•  Security: The new Java will let developers assign levels of access to all software written in Java, governing whether that software can see or modify resources such as files or servers. It also lets developers better handle certificates, electronic business cards that grant the bearer access.

•  User interface: Java's "Swing" technology will let developers write Java programs that more easily mimic the user's native operating systems, such as Windows or MacOS, by controlling the appearance of items like check boxes, icons, menus, and scroll bars.

•  Graphics: Java 2D features will improve the two-dimensional graphics features, including commands for handling images, text and tools for making sure colors display correctly on different systems.

•  Drag-and-drop: Users will be able to transfer data between Java programs and native programs running on their computers, between two Java programs, or within a single Java program.

•  Speed improvements: The new Java will be able to take better advantage of individual computers' abilities to perform mathematical calculations. Java programs also will be able to use more native code to speed some operations that use the Java Native Interface.

Source: Sun

Sun posted the final 20MB Windows edition of version 1.2 of its Java Development Kit on the Web Friday.

Also today, Sun announced that HotSpot, "an after-market plug-in that allows the Java 2 to operate at greater speeds," will be available next week in beta format. HotSpot will begin shipping next April.

The company further announced a new licensing model for the Java 2 platform, aimed at creating more flexible terms for using the technology by developers and programmers.

The new licensing scheme allows others to use and modify the source code for commercial software products without an upfront charge.

"We have provided far more flexibility to our licensees with respect to being able to modify the source code and being able to share the source code that they modified among the community of licensees," said Alan Baratz, president of Java Software at Sun. "But when it comes to finally shipping a binary product to the market place, then we charge a royalty for the use of our technology."

Java Business Expo, now in its second year, is no Comdex. But dozens of companies are on hand to discuss and joust over the fabled "write once, run anywhere" programming language, which has often garnered headlines owing to the federal government's antitrust case against Microsoft and a separate lawsuit between Sun and Microsoft over Java licensing.

Sun recently won a preliminary injunction in its case, forcing Microsoft to comply with Sun's standard version of Java. The Redmond, Washington, software giant says its extensions to Java improve Java's performance, but that Sun says they destroy the its cross-platform capability.

In Washington, Microsoft dented Sun's position on Friday by getting Java creator James Gosling to admit that Java isn't as universal as Sun would like. But the Justice Department contends that Microsoft's Java strategy is only part of its alleged attempt to illegally eliminate Web browser competition by taking advantage of Windows predominant share of the operating system market.