News and New Product Briefs (7/15/97)

News and New Product Briefs (7/15/97)

The results are in: Java answers business computing needs

Zona Research Inc. recently conducted a survey of 279 IT professionals, and discovered the following: "enterprises are already testing and deploying Java-based applications to solve business-critical workflow processes while maintaining an eye on the future."

Why does Java play such a crucial role in the development of business-critical apps for the enterprise? IT professionals pointed to the following as the primary factors:

  • Web browser linkage
  • Cross-platform compatibility
  • Programmer interest in Java
  • Lower costs
  • Improved application security
  • Legacy data access
  • Speed of development
  • Robustness
  • Ability to run on thin clients

Planned applications include those focusing on information-sharing and workflow within the enterprise. The emphasis will be on applets developed for Web-page use, internal/external communication apps, apps that will run within a browser or thin client, as well as cross-platform development and deployment, access to back-office data, and integration of existing apps.

Other Zona Research findings:

  • Budgets for Java application development will almost double in the next 24 months.

  • Within the next 6 to 12 months, 10% of the companies sampled are planning to have between 1 to 10 full-time Java developers.

  • 47% of the organizations surveyed currently are using Java. The remaining 53% plan to use Java within the next 12 months.

  • One quarter of the companies surveyed claim to be developing business-critical Java applications.

Asked about the challenges posed by Java, those surveyed responded with the following: Migrate applications across all platforms is difficult, there's a need for increased speed and improved scalability, and it's not an easy language to learn.

On the bright side, the report indicates that "significant investments in Java and planned deployment of Java-based solutions are slated to occur within the next 6 to 12 months. Overall, the message from the study seems clear -- Java is more than a passing fad and is a technology that enterprises are studying and deploying in the near term."

Java's out of this world

Web users interested in NASA's latest Mars endeavors can now access a NASA-developed Java-based application called Web Interface for Telescience (WITS). With WITS, they can test their remote roving skills by driving a simulation of the Mars rover, Sojourner, over a simulated Martian landscape.

The site, which is being hosted on a Sun Netra j Internet server and mirrored at additional locations around the world, allows you to access WITS and view up-to-date images from the Pathfinder Mars mission.

Paul Backes, technical group leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead developer of WITS, said, "Today, we're using Java's interactive capabilities to make the Mars mission a great learning experience for our kids, as they plan their own mission and see what it feels like to control the rover directly from their computer."

WITS demo:

Java: To Mars...and beyond!

Buy your "Network-in-a-Box"

Network Computer Inc. (NCI) is debuting its "Network-in-a-Box" -- a program that delivers an out-of-the-box network computer system designed for corporations, schools, government institutions, and small offices. The program will be available worldwide through NCI's VAR channel, Propeller Portable Computer Products.

"Network-in-a-Box" requires minimal set up and installation, and consists of NCI's software and NCI hardware partners' products, including:

  • An Intel-based NC Server appliance, including NC Server software for managing network computers, applications such as e-mail and productivity software, and NC Desktop

  • Two NC devices based on the Intel microprocessor from Accton or Funai

  • Two NC cards from Schlumberger: one user card and one administrator card

  • Network hardware, including a 4-port hub and all cabling

"Corporations and organizations around the world can now call Propeller to try their very own NC network," said Bonnie Crater, VP of strategic marketing at NCI. "After experiencing the ease of use and simple installation and support, everyone will be sold on the network computer."

"Network-in-a-Box" should be available in the middle of July 1997 at a cost of ,995.

Software fix for new Java bug

JavaSoft has developed software to correct a bug in the latest version of the JDK 1.1.2. The bug, discovered last month by University of Washington computer science researchers, appears only in the JDK 1.1.2; earlier versions of the JDK and the Navigator and Internet Explorer browsers were not affected. Sun officials said a fix is going out in the 1.1.3 release, which is scheduled to be posted on the JavaSoft Web site early in July.

Instant Coffee 1.0 -- just add water

WebKnight started shipping full-Java Instant Coffee 1.0 -- a professional authoring tool for building Java-based Web sites without any coding knowledge. A Web site developed with Instant Coffee can include auto-animation, full-blown typography, animated text, and advanced object interaction -- all with no coding.

Some Instant Coffee features include:

  • Precision visual layout and control with pixel-level accuracy
  • Plug-in architecture that allows the software to be easily extended
  • Multi-layered graphics and text
  • Automatic image-generation and animation
  • Interactive audio that can be attached to objects
  • Automatic hot-linked text and animated text
  • Fine control over typography

WebKnight offers a free trial version of Instant Coffee on its Web site. You can purchase the complete product for 95.

LG Semicon and Sun to co-develop Java processors

LG Semicon and Sun announced they will co-develop Java processors: LG will manufacture the chips and Sun will be the worldwide exclusive distributor of the chips.

Based on Sun's picoJAVA chip, the low-cost processor will include CRT controller, flicker-free logic, modem port, and graphics controller functions -- functions that are necessary for consumer applications such as Internet TV, kiosks, and consumer-based network computer devices. Sun is scheduled to supply Java Processor samples by the end of the year.

"This agreement will allow Sun to provide the next generation of silicon for consumer electronics products," said Scott McNealy, CEO and president of Sun.

IBM to market 00 Java computer

IBM intends to market a 00 Java computer in the fall of 1997 that will compete with Sun's JavaStations. The IBM machine will include support for smart cards, and will include Java accelerator chips and JIT compilers to speed performance. The main processor will be a PowerPC 603 chip.

"This market will become increasingly important because of improvements in compression, ISDN, ADSL, and cable," said Howie Hunger, director of channels and marketing for IBM's Network Computer Division. "There will also be different characteristics for caching. With Java, you can cache most data inside the device."

IBM won't discontinue its existing thin-client line of devices. But, according to Hunger, you can expect the prices for those machines to drop below 00 by the end of 1997.

Corel plans 2 inexpensive Java machines

Corel plans to deliver two inexpensive Java-based NC devices -- one desktop and one portable model -- by the end of this year. Both devices will use Digital's StrongARM 230MHz chip and a video-compression chip, and will come bundled with Corel's Java office-productivity suite. The desktop unit will cost approximately 00 and is expected to ship in October 1997. The notebook NC will be priced at around ,700 and should ship in November or December.

"Because we see NCs and Java becoming mainstream over the next two or three years," said Michael Cowpland, president and CEO of Corel, "we might as well address that important segment right away." Corel plans to market its machines through existing distribution channels.

Intel unveils its NetPC

At the recent PC Expo, Intel debuted the NetPC, its competitor to the NC. With a sealed-case design, the Intel version generally won't have a floppy drive, CD-ROM, or expansion slots (these aren't hard-and-fast rules). However, the NetPC will have the ability to remotely boot and awaken the LAN and hard drive, and tell the administrator when it is about to fail. The processors will be the Pentium and Pentium II. Intel expects the NetPCs to cost between ,000 to ,300.

Among the manufacturers of Intel's NetPC are Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Acer America, IBM, and about eight others who hope to have prototypes to demonstrate later this year. Still, NetPCs are expected to account for less than 10 percent of total sales by 2000. PC manufacturers are hoping the NetPC device will replace dumb terminals, not eat into the desktop PC market.

One such NetPC device is HP's Net Vectra PC. The Net Vectra PC, which is expected to ship in August 1997 for about 99, will come equipped with a Pentium or Pentium with MMX processor. The Net Vectra will ship with 16 megabytes or 32 megabytes of RAM, 1- or 1.6-gigabyte hard drive, and 10 or 10/100 Base-T Ethernet card.

JavaSoft and Microware offer Java APIs

Microware has signed an agreement with JavaSoft to extend its Java licensing, allowing Microware (developer of the OS-9 real-time operating system [RTOS]) to deliver a Java-based embedded systems package to OEMs -- Java for OS-9. The RTOS package includes Java, PersonalJava (designed for consumer devices like digital TVs and mobile phones), and EmbeddedJava (designed for pagers, printers, and industrial controllers).

"Thanks to our close relationship with Sun, Microware is the first RTOS vendor to offer Java in a customizable package for use in virtually any product aimed at the consumer market," said Ken Kaplan, president of Microware. "By teaming with JavaSoft and combining the two industry-leading technologies of Java and OS-9, we have successfully moved Java off the desktop and into the high-growth, high-volume consumer products market."

Apple makes learning Java-based and online

Apple is offering the Educational Object Economy (EOE) project, a complementary, online, community-based learning site built around the creation, sharing, and use of teaching resources that incorporate Java applets for Web-based instruction. The goal of the EOE project is to build an online community of educators, researchers, businesses, and content producers who can dip into a rich pool of information, teaching plans, and learning resources. A secondary goal is to make creating educational software easier and faster, and to establish a self-regulating community among educators, software developers, and businesses.

Mike Lorion, VP of Apple's Education Division, said, "This research project will help us understand the way technological and social innovations interact to give rise to thriving online learning communities."

DataBeam serves up online Java-based conferencing

Put those business-travel plans away: DataBeam announced the final version of Net.120 Conference Server 2.0, a server program that coordinates data conferences and application-sharing over the Internet for multiple users -- and it works with garden-variety Java-capable browsers, so you don't have to download any new software.

"It moves conferencing to tens of millions of potential end points," said Jim Clifton, server product manager.

The Net.120 server is also compatible with applications such as Microsoft's NetMeeting, Intel's ProShare, and any other application based on the T.120 Internet data-conferencing standard. And, according to Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a high-tech consulting firm, "What [DataBeam] is doing is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, you would want to see ISPs support this kind of service."

Net.120 Conference Server 2.0 is available for NT and Solaris. Prices start at ,295 for one server with support for eight concurrent users.

Digital issues JIT to compete with Intel and National

Digital Semiconductor is developing a just-in-time (JIT) Java compiler for its StrongARM processor -- to compete with Intel Pentiums on Java performance. The compiler should be ready to go with NCI's NC-OS this summer.

The compiler will speed Java applications on StrongARM NCs, and although JIT-compiled Java code will still be faster on the Pentium-II, Digital's Internet appliance manager Leo Joseph says the StrongARM chip will make up for that with its low price (9 each, in volume, as compared to 00 for a 233MHz P-II).

And because of the very proposed nature of Java and NCs (simple, small, fast), Digital is also competing with National Semiconductor's 5 NS486 chip. National Semiconductor's senior marketing manager Joe Salvador said the NS486 has been optimized to run Java and C code, can use x86 drivers, and is perfect for the NC.

Two quarters late, two-thirds of NC-OS apps ship

Two-thirds of Oracle's "Hat Trick" Java applications are shipping with the NC Server OS, only two quarters off the promised date. The word processor and presentation graphics applications are shipping now, but the spreadsheet app being developed by Lotus is absent. The word processor and presentation graphics applets will be included in Oracle InterOffice 4.1, due in the fall.

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