A major rethink of the way the leading Web browsers implement Java will soon greatly improve Java performance, according to Roger Bowman of Symantec's Internet tools division.
Bowman, in Auckland for the official launch of Symantec Cafe, the company's Java development environment, says both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer will move to support JIT Java compilers and Java interpreters as standard plug-ins.
The "just in time" compilers greatly increase the speed of execution of Java applets. Symantec will be making its own JIT compilers available as plug-ins--news which will be particularly welcome to Macintosh users, as Symantec currently owns the only JIT compiler for the Mac. Netscape had intended to build JIT into all versions of Navigator 3.0, but had been unable to develop or license one.
Bowman says the shift to a plug-in approach to Java should be made in the next beta of Navigator 3.0 and in the first revision or Explorer 3.0.
"The problem isn't so much designing the compilers and interpreters as plug-ins, as ripping out the Java interpreter currently hard-coded into the browser without messing up the rest of the code."
Bowman says Symantec is "talking to Netscape right now" about licensing issues, but is not prepared to elaborate. Netscape bundling Symantec's interpreter and compiler as pre-installed plug-ins, as has been done with Apple's QuickTime software, would appear possible.
Bowman describes a path for Symantec's Java tools in which the next step will be beta releases of the Visual Cafe RAD tool, to which registered Cafe users would have free access within a month. This will be followed by Visual Cafe Pro, which will offer high-end database connectivity.
He says Symantec is committed to cross-platform standards, but will incorporate support for Microsoft's Windows-only ActiveX technology into its tools. He says Symantec will also be ideally placed to support OpenDoc if, as seems likely, it is adopted as a Java class, "because most of the orginal OpenDoc team now work at Symantec".