Sun's JavaOne conference
by James Niccolai
Displaying the kind of zeal more commonly found among Macintosh fans, Java software developers at the JavaOne conference last week said they are confident of Java's future cross-platform compatibility despite Microsoft's alleged implementation of an "impure" version of the Sun Microsystems programming language.
A few developers criticised Sun for dragging its feet with the release of Java tools for Linux, a version of Unix that runs on Intel processors as well as Digital's Alpha and Sun's own Sparc chips. But on the whole, most developers seemed pleased with the way Sun has managed and evolved the Java platform.
Sun has charged Microsoft with releasing a Java software development kit optimised for its Windows platform, but this has apparently stirred little fear among developers that the software giant will disrupt Java's fabled "write once, run anywhere" capabilities.
"Java is a definite breakthrough that will last for years to come," said Knut Jorstad, a software developer at Intervett in Oslo. "It would be hard for anyone to ruin it now. It's passed the critical mass for becoming the standard."
Microsoft will be more likely to "break its own leg" than break Java's cross-platform capabilities, said Joni Suominen, a developer with To The Point, based in Helsinki.
Chris Burdess, a software developer with Web Development in London, said he knows several developers who are steering clear of Microsoft's Java tools because they are unsure of their compatibility with other platforms.
However, Burdess added that he has used Microsoft's SDK and had no problems with it. "There might be incompatibility issues with packages that people don't use very much, like RMI, but if you're just writing applets I think it's okay," he said.
Burdess writes applications for the Linux platform, and complained that Sun takes an additional three months to release Java tools for Linux compared to its own Solaris operating system.
"Sun's impetus for creating Java virtual machines (JVMs) for Linux has been a bit limited," Burdess said, adding that Sun releases the source code for JVMs to a limited number of Linux developers.
Suominen, who also works on the Linux platform, agreed. He said he acquires Java Workshop for Linux from Caldera, which ports the tool set from Solaris. For the Java virtual machine for Linux, he must turn to another Java porter, Blackdown.
Suominen also said Linux and Solaris are similar, and it should not be difficult to release products for both operating systems. "Maybe Sun is trying to be the Microsoft of the Unix market," he said. "Unlike Microsoft, Sun doesn't sell bug fixes, they give them for free."
A few developers said they were relieved at Sun's announcement that it will lengthen the release cycle for upgraded versions of its Java platforms and tools to around six months.
"They realised they had to do something with these release cycles. You can't go into development if you don't know what platform you're writing for," said Thomas Wust, a programmer for systems integrator Systor of Zurich.
However, Wust added that if Sun had not released Java APIs rapidly for each segment of the market from PCs down to embedded devices, Microsoft might have seized the opportunity to meet the need and released its own versions of the APIs.
HP tools unify Unix/NT development
by Matthew JC. Powell
SYDNEY - Hewlett-Packard has announced tools and middleware to help developers create Internet applications on the Windows NT platform and deploy them under Unix or Windows NT systems. "Internet applications", according to HP, means electronic commerce, supply chain management and online customer support.
The move has great advantages for Unix/NT shops that are starting to use NT as their primary application development environment. HP will also offer tools to develop applications under Unix and deploy on both platforms.
The announcement is part of HP's long-term commitment to converge Unix and NT on the Merced platform. Merced, a chip being co-developed by HP and Intel, promises to run Unix and NT equally well. Other vendors, such as Sun Microsystems and IBM, offer tools for developing and deploying Internet applications, but HP is one of very few large Unix vendors offering tools for both Unix and NT. HP said the tools also reflect HP's recognition that businesses are moving more towards Internet-based computing.
HP's Domain Foundation Tools suite gives developers the choice of creating applications in C, C++ or Java, on Windows NT systems. Then the applications can be compiled to run on Unix. HP will also offer FoundationWare, a set of middleware products and technologies for deploying Internet applications across corporate networks. FoundationWare couples standard Internet APIs with Netscape's Directory Server software; and Orbix, Iona Software's Object Request Broker. Orbix gives developers a framework for creating and deploying object-oriented applications across a network, and is designed to allow interoperability between components written in a wide range of languages and running on a variety of operating systems.
HP considered Novell's widely used Novell Directory Services (NDS) but chose to go with Netscape's technology because it is better suited for use with Internet applications and has garnered strong support from independent software developers. In addition, Netscape's Directory Server conforms to LDAP version 3, which has become the de facto directory environment for the Internet.
HP stressed it was not reducing support for its existing SoftBench development tools, and said it plans to extend its Developer's Edge program for partners that provide products and technologies for HP 9000 Enterprise Servers. An HP spokesperson said the company expects many customers to use Foundation Tools to develop applications on Windows NT machines, which would then run off its HP 9000 Enterprise Unix servers and be accessed by NT-based clients.
Foundation Tools also includes the following:
HP OpenStudio, which includes Windows NT-based development tools used with Microsoft's Visual C++ to create Unix system applicationsFoundationWizards, designed to provide developers with fill-in templates that make it easier to use the Internet middleware technologies in FoundationWareSoftware developer kits for FoundationWare from various industry-leading vendorsHP-UX edition of JavaWorkshop by Sun Microsystems, Version 2.0, which offers tools to create Java-based applicationsFoundationWare will be bundled free with upcoming versions of HP-UX. Both are expected to be available later in the year.
Australian pricing for Foundation Tools was not available at press time.
Tel 13 1347ÊFax (03) 9272 2898
FileNET puts focus on documents
by Matthew JC. Powell
FileNET has announced Panagon Document Warehouse (PDW) for SAP 4.0, integrated document management software that provides enterprise-wide access to a company's documents in SAP R/3 environments. The software makes it easy to "document-enable" R/3 business applications.
Compatible with SAP R/3 3.x and 4.0 versions, PDW can be deployed on Microsoft Windows 95/NT and Web-based client desktops. It allows rapid development of custom applications through support for Microsoft COM technology, ActiveX and OLE.
According to Lee Roberts, FileNET's president and CEO, PDW combines document imaging and archiving for the first time in an integrated product for the SAP R/3 environment. "The software extends the SAP value chain by allowing users of productivity applications to access integrated document management capabilities across an SAP enterprise and streamline document-intensive business processes," he said.
The term "document-enabled" means enterprise users can focus on sharing information in a wide variety of document types without having to deploy a large number of different applications. PDW allows users to view and use images, PDF files, text, video and fax data in over 200 different formats.
Other significant features include:
l Multiple deployment capabilities: the
choice of Windows or Web-based
interfaces means the software can be
deployed quickly with minimal training
l Document capture: PDW integrates with
FileNET's Panagon Capture software for
capturing images, text and even HTML
forms, and includes support for 80
Panagon Document Warehouse will be available in the third quarter of this year. Pricing for the client software starts at $500 RRP, while the server component begins at around $28,600 RRP.
Tel (02) 9273 9900ÊFax (02) 9273 9950
Macromedia opens Flash standard
by Matthew JC. Powell
Macromedia has announced it is making its popular Flash file format available as an open Internet standard for vector graphics and animation. The move enables developers to deliver Flash-compatible authoring and editing tools. It additionally enables platform vendors to provide a more attractive environment to content publishers, and allows Web designers to make animation a standard element in their Web site designs.
In making the announcement Rob Burgess, Macro-media president and CEO, said: "Web designers and publishers have to compete for consumer attention and loyalty - making the visual appeal and usability of their Web sites more important than ever." He added: "Flash delivers rich interactivity even in low-bandwidth environments."
One company that will clearly benefit from Macromedia's decision is RealNetworks, a provider of tools for streaming audio and video content on the Web. RealNetworks has already incorporated Flash technology in its RealFlash product. Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks, said: "Vector graphics technology offers fundamental advantages, both in terms of bandwidth efficiency and device independence. With Macromedia's decision to open the Flash file format, the industry now has a vector standard around which we can unite."
Macromedia has published the open Flash file format (.swf) and sample code at www.flash.com/open.
The company will soon submit the format specification to a recognised Internet standards organisation. Macromedia will also license the Flash player source code to Internet platform vendors.
Several leading platform vendors announced support for the opening of the Flash file format - with many announcing either new or broadened plans to incorporate the Flash player within their platform.
These include: @Home, IBM, Microsoft, PointCast, PowerTV, Spyglass, Sun Microsystems and WebTV.
Macromedia's plans to license its Flash player source code should allow these companies to develop, modify or support existing run-time engines to optimise playback of .swf content on Web browsers, set-top boxes, and other Web platforms.
"Flash . . . has made a big impact this year for developers wanting to add interactivity and animation to their Web sites," said David Cole, vice president of the Web Client and Consumer Experience Division at Microsoft.
"As an open systems leader, Microsoft is supportive of Macromedia's decision to open the binary Flash file format. Microsoft and Macromedia are now collaborating to develop Flash output for Microsoft's DirectX Media runtime.
"This will make it much easier for developers to reach consumers with the most compelling multimedia for the Web."
A broad cross-section of software and tool developers also announced their support for the Flash format. Several companies - including providers of graphics and animation tools for creative, technical, and business applications - announced plans to extend existing software tools, while others said they intend to develop a new tool or application that will output .swf files.
Flash is widely recognised as the de facto standard for vector-based graphics and animation on the Web.
The Flash file format is binary to ensure quick transmission and display. Its object-oriented architecture allows parts of files to be used multiple times after downloading.
The Flash format has proven to be highly platform-independent, capable of operating under different operating systems, microprocessors, hardware devices and tools. Flash is also extensible, allowing for future enhancements while still enabling backwards compatibility.
Macromedia's products are distributed in Australia by Firmware Design.
Tel (02) 4721 7211ÊFax (02) 4721 7215