Java Plug-in, formerly code-named Java Activator, is an add-on for standard Web browsers that lets users run applications or applets with the latest Java features. It will include full support for JavaBeans and Java Foundation Classes 1.1, key elements for Java developers.
That will help developers, particularly of corporate applications, because they can utilize the newest Java technology and be assured that all users, even those with an older browser, can run them. Users need only download the free Java Plug-in for their operating system.
JavaSoft also said Apple Computer will create a Macintosh version of Java Plug-in for Netscape Navigator browsers. Macs running Microsoft Internet Explorer browser already can download the latest JVM from Apple.
JavaSoft said it will release Java Plug-ins for browsers running Windows 95, Windows NT, and Solaris, both on Intel and Sun chips. Sun will help other operating systems vendors to create plug-ins for browsers running on their platforms. There also is a version for Linux.
The Windows 95 browser plug-in also gets around Microsoft's decision not to include all the features of Java Developers Kit 1.1 in Internet Explorer 4.0. Microsoft's action has spurred lawsuits between the two companies.
Netscape also has indicated it won't update the JVM in its Navigator browser but will rely on operating systems vendors to provide the latest JVM.
"Today JVMs that have been provided with the browsers have been implementing a subset of JDK 1.1 features," said Frank Rimalovski, JavaSoft's product manager for Java Plug-in. "They have also done their own unique bells and whistles, which has made the process of creating an applet that works across both browsers difficult."
Java Plug-in will be available free for download from JavaSoft's Web site. Software developers also can bundle it for free with their applications.
Java Plug-in also lets developers create and test applications and applets using a beta version of JDK 1.2 by allowing them to download a JVM to test their new code.
Since Java Activator was announced in December, the biggest request has been for a plug-in for Macintosh users of Navigator, Rimalovski said.
"Today when you run Navigator on a Mac, it's a hybrid JDK, somewhere between version 1.0 and 1.1," said Apple's Gary Little, Java product manager. "It's important we get people to current standards."