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Watered-down Java slammed

Sun's JavaSoft division will use Internet World as a bully pulpit to promote a Java "purification" campaign and to introduce new server products.

Later this week, Sun Microsystems' (SUNW) JavaSoft division will use Internet World as a bully pulpit to promote a Java "purification" campaign, as well as to introduce a family of Java server products.

Industry sources say JavaSoft will unveil its 100 Percent Pure Java campaign at the New York conference on Wednesday to address growing industry concern that Java technology is splintering into a collection of incompatible variants. The campaign is expected to be endorsed by at least 70 developers and will include print and Internet advertising, a logo for "pure" Java products, training for developers, and compatibility testing services.

The campaign represents something on the order of a religious reformation for Sun, which has persuaded virtually the entire software industry, from Microsoft and Netscape Communications to IBM, to adopt Java technology in their products. But Sun is concerned that a growing number of companies are undermining a core feature of the technology--Java's platform independence--by promoting proprietary extensions to the language.

Although Sun officials declined to comment on this week's announcement, the company has publicly expressed concern in the past about what it views as proprietary extensions to Java. Chief among them is an effort by Microsoft to encourage developers to create Java applets that rely on ActiveX, a Microsoft technology that works predominantly on Windows.

"Everybody wanted to latch onto Java and give it a little bit of their own spin," said an industry source familiar with the plan for the campaign. "This campaign will show developers what the benefit is of writing to the Java specifications. You can write to ActiveX programming interfaces and wrap them around Java, [but] what you give up is platform independence."

Sun has even criticized its closest allies for not protecting Java's independence. For example, Sun has suggested that Netscape's Java-based Internet Foundation Classes use proprietary extensions.

This week, all will be forgiven as part of the purification campaign. Sun and Netscape, which will endorse the campaign, will attempt to reconcile the differences between Netscape's classes and the Abstract Windowing Toolkit, a collection of Java libraries that help the graphical interface for applets by merging the two technologies, sources said.

Although Microsoft has been invited to endorse the campaign, it hasn't decided whether to support the initiative, the sources added.

Today, Sun officials were more open about some of the other announcements it will make at Internet World this week, including a new line of Internet servers and the release of a beta of the Java Beans APIs (application programming interfaces).

A spokeswoman said that Sun will unveil the Java Web Server, an HTTP server written in Java that supports the Java servlet API. The API will enable developers to create database applications in Java without having to write less efficient CGI (common gateway interface) scripts. A beta version of the Java Web Server will be available later this week on the JavaSoft Web site, with a final version due out in early 1997.

Sun will also introduce the Java Network Computer Server this week, which is designed to deliver applications to network computers running Sun's JavaOS and the HotJava Views graphical user environment. The server will ship in mid-1997. Sun will also announce a server toolkit for creating customized Java servers.