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WebObjects to sing Rhapsody

Internet World Three months after the acquisition of Next Software, Apple puts WebObjects in the spotlight with plans for the tool to support the Mac OS.

Internet World Three months after the acquisition of Next Software, Apple Computer (AAPL) has put Next's WebObjects in the spotlight by announcing a road map for the development tool that includes support for the Macintosh operating system later this year.

WebObjects is an object-oriented development environment for building high-traffic Web sites and linking them to databases. In Apple's $400 million acquisition of Next, Next's operating system technology overshadowed WebObjects, which many large companies use to build online catalogs, storefronts, and other sites that require complex information exchange.

Apple's plan for WebObjects consists of three parts:

  • WebObjects 3.1, due for release this spring, will support server-side Java and Adobe Acrobat 3.0. The Acrobat support will allow output of Web-based documents to PDF, or portable document format. Acrobat is cross-platform, browser-independent, and prints much more accurately to paper than normal HTML-based Web pages. Acrobat requires use of a separate reader on the client side.

    "It's a logical extension of what [WebObjects] has been doing up to now," said Ross Rubin, group director of consumer Internet technologies at the research firm Jupiter Communications.

    With version 3.1, Java support will for the first time be bundled with WebObjects. Java extensions for the current version 3.0 are available from the Next Web site.

  • WebObjects 3.5, due this summer, will feature new script language support, easier installation, and extra prebuilt application components. Version 3.5 is also scheduled to run on the developer release of Rhapsody, Apple's next-generation operating system based on Next technology. The developer release of Rhapsody and WebObjects 3.5 are expected to run on PowerPC machines. There are no plans, however, to run WebObjects on the current System 7 Mac OS.

    WebObjects, like the OpenStep APIs that will be at the heart of Rhapsody, currently runs on Windows NT, Solaris, HP-UX, as well as the OpenStep/Mach platforms.

    "Under the hood, WebObjects and OpenStep are 70 percent identical," an Apple spokesman said.

  • WebObjects 4.0, due next winter, will improve its support for client-side Java and add more application components. The Java improvements in 4.0 will speed up client access to Java applications on the server with Java business objects and require less reliance on HTML coding, according to the Apple spokesman.

    WebObjects accounted for nearly half of Next's revenues last year, according to Apple executive vice president Ellen Hancock. Hancock told CNET in a recent interview that Next had estimated WebObjects would generate more than 50 percent of Next's 1997 sales. In its 1994 fiscal year, the privately held Next posted a $1 million profit on $50 million in sales.

    In an Internet World announcement, Apple said it would ship version 5.0 of its AppleShare IP server software in the second quarter with bundled third-party software, including Claris HomePage and Emailer, Santorini Server Manager, and Vicom Internet Gateway.