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Corel postpones Office for Java

Corel was hoping to ship Office for Java in May but now won't make it until October.

Canadian software company Corel (COSFF) is pushing back its release of Office for Java, its Java-based productivity applications, until October, a company spokeswoman said today.

The final version of its server-based office software suite written entirely in the Java programming language was originally slated for a May release. It has slipped because the company is rewriting the code to work with new Java features included in the Java Development Kit 1.1, which was released in February. The beta version of Office for Java was written using JDK 1.02.

Corel also wants to make sure that there will be popular platforms, such as Internet Explorer and Communicator that will support Java software developed with JDK 1.1.

The expected release of JDK 1.2 later this summer adds further complication to the picture.

"Clearly, there's a moving target," said Greg Blatnik, vice president of the analyst firm Zona Research. "There's a lot of dependence on Sun and its progress with the JDK development."

The Office for Java delay coincides with news that the company's subsidiary Corel Computer will ship its desktop Video Network Computer in the fourth quarter. This somewhat of a surprise, as Corel CEO Michael Cowpland told the press less than a month ago that the device would ship in August or September.

Office for Java will be a key selling point of the Video NC, although executives from both Corel and its subsidiary say that delivery of one doesn't depend upon the other. The two will not be bundled, although Corel Computer will license Office for Java from its parent company and offer it to clients looking for a total NC hardware-software package, according to Corel Computer spokesman Oliver Bendzsa.

"Until we have resellers online who can handle the installation of an NC network, we'll be selling directly [to companies] with a complete solution that includes client and server software, and the crown jewel will be Office for Java," Bendzsa said.

Delay of the Video NC, which will feature built-in videoconferencing equipment, could push the ship date as far back as the end of December. The company has recently settled on a RISC processor, the 233-MHz StrongARM SA110 from Digital Equipment, for the initial release of the Video NC. The price tag for the first systems, which Corel plans to sell directly to enterprise customers as part of an entire network solution, will be less than $1,000, Bendzsa added.

The Video NC will ship with 32MB of memory, keyboard, mouse, and a built-in analog camera, microphone, and speaker for videoconferencing. It will not include a monitor. It will ship with Corel's own videoconferencing software rewritten in Java, Sun's HotJava Web browser, and a flexible desktop environment based on TriTeal's SoftNC software. Underlying the software will be Microware's small-footprint OS9 operating system.

The videoconferencing software will also be rewritten to support the emerging H.323 videoconferencing standard.

Corel has planned to produce a handheld computer with similar networking capabilities, but has put the PDA on the back burner in favor of a subnotebook NC that it hopes to ship by the first quarter of 1998.

"It would take the typical micronotebook form but meet the NC reference profile," Bendzsa said. "We're finalizing three or four different design schematics at the moment."

Corel CEO Cowpland told reporters last month that the notebook would cost between $2,000 and $2,500.

The shifting ship dates and product lineups are worrisome to Zona's Blatnik. "The end customer needs to be careful to separate marketing from real products that you can evaluate," he said. "I don't want to pick on Corel. I would put a stamp of 'proceed with caution' on any of these situations with the NC."