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Sun declares year of Java

This year Java will make a name for itself beyond the desktop, Sun Microsystems says.

SAN FRANCISCO--This year Java will make a name for itself beyond the desktop, Sun Microsystems (SUNW) executives said today.

Sun's Scott McNealy (from left), Dana Fugate, and James Gosling laugh at an onstage comment from colleague John Gage.
At the second annual JavaOne developer conference here, Alan Baratz, the president of Sun's JavaSoft division, and James Gosling, the inventor of the programming language, described how the company is trying to spread Java beyond desktop computers to small and large devices ranging from smart cards to automated teller machines.

"1996 was the year of the client," Baratz said in a keynote speech, and "1997 will be the year that Java will go beyond the client."

As reported by CNET, Sun announced several new "flavors" of Java--including Personal, Embedded, and Card Java--that will allow developers to more easily target their applications at devices with more limited memory and processing power than a PC, such as a network computer. At the same time, the company today unveiled the Enterprise Framework for Java, a set of technologies and guidelines for creating applications that talk to servers and high-end enterprise software.

Because of the huge volume of embedded systems in automobiles and other machinery and the ubiquity of small devices such as cell phones and smart cards, Sun's strategy could significantly expand the market for Java programs. The company also hopes to tap into the lucrative enterprise software market that is dominated by players such as IBM.

JavaSoft's Alan Baratz delivers the Java message.
"We are very aggressively licensing Java to all the operating systems providers, not just the high-end ones but the low-end ones too so we can get as broad a base of coverage as possible," Baratz said.

Likewise, the company hopes to tap into the lucrative enterprise software market that is dominated by players such as IBM.

Larry Weber, SunSoft vice president of desktop products, said Corel will package Java Studio with its Corel Office for Java, and he predicted that millions of copies of Java Studio will be distributed within a year.

"That makes a great opportunity for people who want to build JavaBeans," he said. "That's a lot of places to deploy them."

Baratz trumpeted the progress of Java among developers and corporations. He cited a Forrester Research survey that says 60 percent of companies with 5,000 or more employees are using Java. He also estimated that about 400,000 developers use Java.

"Java is creating a once-in-corporate-lifetime opportunity by breaking everything going forward without breaking anything going backwards," said Bill Raduchel, Sun's vice president of corporate planning and chief information officer, referring to the ease of adapting legacy applications to Java.

Some analysts were impressed with Sun's strategy to push Java beyond PCs. "How I measure the progress of Java is the maturity of the business process being discussed at this conference," said Allen Weiner, an analyst at market research firm Dataquest.

Gosling dons a Star Trek Borg mask for his keynote.
Sun executives took several predictable potshots at Microsoft, criticizing the company's ActiveX technology for its lack of security and dependency on Windows.

"Java is all about the universal fuel for computing," Baratz said. "Java is also about the only way to practice safe computing."

Baratz added Sun planned to modify the traditional "sandbox" Java security model that prevents applets from installing viruses and performing other harmful actions on a PC. But he said the modifications will not give Java applets the kind of freedom to roam a computer accorded to ActiveX controls.

"We are opening up the safety model," he said. "We are doing it in a fashion that preserves the characteristics of the sandbox. It assures that applets can't go around deleting files."

After the keynote, Gosling insisted that only four or five security breaches, all attributable to obscure software bugs, have been found in Java, adding that the bugs were fixed quickly. "ActiveX breaches are an architectural problem," he added.

After today's keynote, Baratz said that Microsoft has complied so far with interoperability tests for Java but has not joined the 100 Percent Pure Java initiative, which goes beyond the basic compatibility tests. "We would love to have Microsoft do pure Java extensions, and we have been complimentary to work they have done. The only place we get uncomfortable is where extensions are locked into proprietary Microsoft APIs. We ask developers not to use those."

Sun executives also noted that the new 1.1 version of the Java Developer Kit expands the number of compatibility tests required to 8,400, up from 120 tests for version 1.0.

JavaSoft executives also parried Microsoft claims that the Java standards process amounts to letting Sun set the standard.

"We have been running an open process for more than a year now, with tens of companies involved in doing the work," said Baratz. "The industry feedback has been that this is absolutely the right way [to do it]."

Several other companies made annoucements today:

  • It has selected KeyLabs to administer testing for its "100 percent pure Java" program.

  • WebTV Networks has licensed Java for use with a future version of its set-top Internet acess devices.

  • A package call JavaPC, which allows DOS-based PCs to run Java programs, will be shipped in the fall. The package, formerly called Project Rescue, will include the JavaOS and HotJava views and will sell for less than $100. (See related story.)

  • A technology called HotSpot will be introduced to accelerate the performance of the Java Virtual Machine.

  • SunSoft unveiled Java Studio, an authoring environment for quickly creating Java software without writing any code. The SunSoft product is targeted for Web designers, content creators, and professionals.

  • SunSoft also announced new Java tools and support programs for developers. SunSoft announced the 2.0 version of Java WorkShop, a multiplatform development environment; Java WorkShop Professional, which combines Java WorkShop 2.0's development environment with the Java Studio authoring environment; and JavaPlan, an enterprise development tool. JavaPlan on Solaris is available now for $3,995 per user.

  • Finally, the Sun Microelectrics division disclosed details on four new deals for Java chips for specific consumer devices. Sun Microelectronics said it's working with Toshiba for mobile NCs; Korea's LG Semicon for Internet televisions; Rockwell Collins for cellular phones, geopositioning systems devices, and aircraft avionics; and Thomson Sun Interactive for interactive TVs and set-top boxes.

    Photos by: Donald R. Winslow, CNET