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Java to make NCs of PCs

Sun introduces a suite of Java software technologies that will turn older Intel-based PCs into network computers.

    Sun Microsystems (SUNW) formally announced today a suite of Java software technologies that will turn older Intel-based PCs into "network computers."

    Sun will roll out later this year its JavaPC software suite, which will enable older PCs to essentially become network computers (NCs). Sun and Oracle advocate the NCs, loosely defined as computers that are connected to and rely on a centrally located server computer to store and distribute software applications, as an alternative to traditional personal computers.

    Sun says that by reducing the need for individual users to install and upgrade their own software, companies will be able to save on support costs. In addition to being able to run Java programs, users will still be able to use applications requiring Windows or DOS (Disk Operating System).

    The company may have found a way to loosen Microsoft's dominance of the desktop operating system.

    In 1996, as many as 20.9 million computers were shipped with the Windows 3.x operating system, according to market research firm Dataquest. Analysts say that instead of buying machines with Windows 95, large and medium-sized companies have continued to buy Windows 3.x while waiting last year for Windows NT 4.0.

    By offering some of the benefits of network computing without requiring an investment in new hardware, Sun's JavaPC may delay some users from upgrading to newer versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system.

    JavaPC will include HotJava Views, which is an application suite that includes email, scheduling, and Internet access software. It will also include the Java Virtual Machine and Java OS, which will be installed on top of DOS but will not require Windows 3.1.

    Sun plans on selling JavaPC in the fall of 1997 at a price of under $100.