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News From JavaOne

Sun Microsystems officials have signed agreements with HP and Dell to include up-to-date Java on their PCs.
With the ink barely dry, Sun Microsystems officials announced yesterday morning that they'd signed agreements with Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer to include up-to-date Java on their PCs.

The move reflects Sun's efforts to negotiate separate pacts with PC manufacturers to load the Java virtual machine, a software program that interprets downloaded Java code, onto new PCs as a move to circumvent Microsoft's decision to drop the JVM.

Microsoft was challenged by Sun last year on its plans to drop Java from Windows XP, the consumer-oriented version of its Windows operating system. A Baltimore federal district court judge ruled last December that Microsoft must include an up-to-date Java virtual machine. Microsoft appealed the ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which stayed the district court order in early February. Microsoft then continued with its plans to drop Java from Windows XP. "Microsoft is pulling Java from Windows. I just don't get it. Do you?" asked Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive VP for the Software Group on Tuesday, the opening day of the JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

Yesterday his subordinate, Rich Green, VP of developer platforms, took the stage to supply the answer. No one had convinced the two top PC sellers, Dell Computer and HP, to put Java there independently until now, he said. Green asked all HP employees in the audience to stand up, and a few reluctantly did. In the past, Sun has criticized HP publicly for producing a real-time Java look-alike, called Chai. Green then asked for a round of applause for HP for committing itself to putting Java back on PCs.

Sun's second major initiative Tuesday was less dramatic. It has decided to mend fences with Java's poor relations, the scripting languages that frequently reside on Web sites with Java but lack association with any muscular commercial companies that market them. Most are free, open-source code creations, such as Perl, Python, Tcl, and PHP.

Scripting typically supplies the glue that holds many Web sites together by issuing short command programs to the Web server and calling on dissimilar software components to work together. In the past, Java simply hasn't recognized scripting languages, said Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly & Associates, a computer book publisher whose titles include several on scripting languages.

O'Reilly was called to the stage by Green to comment on why Sun is now opening up lines of communication with scripts. "The scripting language community is about as large as the Java community," O'Reilly noted, but it has rarely gotten as much attention. Most scripting programmers were site designers and content producers who found themselves becoming programmers against their will, he said.

They turned to a simple command language, such as what was originally a Unix system administrators scripting language, Perl, to get elements of a Web site to work together, O'Reilly said.

Sun has teamed up with Zend Technologies Ltd. of Tel Aviv, Israel, the leading commercial company behind the most frequently used scripting language, PHP, to request a specification for the way Java should interface to scripting languages. The request was approved Monday by an executive committee of the Java Community Process, the multivendor technology-building process for Java standards. That means the request will go to an expert working group that will draft a specification and a reference implementation of the spec, said Brad Young, director of product marketing for Zend.

Zend, as a supplier of PHP optimization tools, will have a representative on the committee. "We will have an aggressive schedule," Young predicted. "We believe we can get to a final spec in 12 months."

Such a specification would map concrete ways to interface Java Web applications to other elements on the Web site. One thing a script might do is start a Java virtual machine to run Java code and stop the JVM when it's finished. Under current practice, the JVM would then be deleted from the Web server's memory. Seconds later, another Java program might need a JVM, and it must be started all over again.

Under today's failure-to-communicate relationship between Java and scripts, there's no efficient way to manage the starts and stops of JVMs, "which are known to be resource hogs," said Young. If a script program could allow one or more JVMs to run continuously, Java performance on Web sites would markedly improve, he said.

In other developments:

  • Compuware Corp. announced the availability of DevPartner Java Edition 3.0.1, which will offer analysis and profiling techniques to show developers how their applications are likely to behave once they're running on a server. The development productivity suite has been updated to work with the latest versions of Java application servers, including IBM's WebSphere release 5 and Oracle9i application server release 9.0.3. It's also been updated to support Sun Java Development Kit 1.4. It's priced at $1,495 per seat.
  • Laszlo Systems Inc., a San Francisco start-up, launched its presentation server for adding a rich client user interface to Java Web server applications. A Laszlo rich-client interface has been implemented by Behr Paints. "We're allowing people to visualize the end result and preview how a particular room will appear--before they make their paint purchase," said Mary Rice, Behr's VP of marketing. The presentation server is free to developers and $999 in a small business deployment edition.
  • In the game of benchmark leapfrog, Intel said a Madison-based machine, or second-generation Itanium server from HP, had beaten a leading IBM server in a Java operations benchmark, the Specjbb2000. The HP four-way rx5670 server had come out 20% ahead of the published results for an IBM four-way pSeries Server 655. The IBM server had the faster microprocessor at 1.7 GHz, compared to the 1.5 GHz for the Madison-based server, but the Madison scored 116,000 operations per second to IBM's 96,400, said Dale Cosgro, a member of the Intel independent software vendor enabling team.