Met Service site catches international attention

The Met Service's new Java-powered Internet service has already attracted interest from potential purchasers in Japan and elsewhere, in only its first week on the Web.

The Met Service's new Java-powered Internet service has already attracted interest from potential purchasers in Japan and elsewhere, in only its first week on the Web.

The package, Weather Now!, is "very much" for sale, says Met Service marketing manager Tom Sutherland: "Weather Now! is a concept of a way of looking at weather. We've already had enquiries--people seem quite taken with it."

Once loaded into a browser, the Met Service applet presents the user with a range of point-and-click options, from simple regional forecasts to looping satellite pictures and regional rain radar images. It is that rarity--a Java application which is more than a novelty or proof-of-concept.

"We began work on the project at the beginning of the year with SFX Design. We sat down with them and discussed our options as a content provider. We looked at HTML, and at Shockwave, and eventually decided that Java would be the way to go. We had to bear in mind the kind of services we provide, and the fact that weather information is highly perishable and needs to be refreshed constantly. I was also very keen on the idea of being able to make everything accessible on one page."

Weather Now! is wholly owned by the Met Service, but it is hosted by Telecom Xtra, which, says Sutherland, "provided the way to reach as many people as possible. We're not locked into Xtra but they've certainly provided the resources a project like this needs."

Sutherland says a few rough edges in the design and delivery of the service are still being smoothed off in its first couple of weeks. But the main problem users are likely to encounter is simply the rather sluggish performance of today's Java compilers in the face of non-trivial applets such as this one. Browsers with fast Java--and that currently means Microsoft Internet Explorer over Netscape, and PC over Mac versions--will notice considerably better performance.

"Current Java performance is frustrating," admits Sutherland, "especially for Mac users. But things will improve--and as they do we hope that Java will become the standard for applications like this."

WeatherNow! is at http://www.xtra.co.nz/metservice/index.shtml.

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