Sun announces JavaOS, host of licensees

Sun opened its JavaOne developers conference here at the start of the week by announcing JavaOS and a host of licensees that will offer the Java operating system on a range of systems within a year.

Touting the operating system as the smallest and fastest to run the Java object-oriented programming environment, executives gave a demonstration of a JavaOS-based prototype terminal running on a MicroSPARC II processor.

JavaOS can run with as little as 512Kb of read-only memory and 128Kb of RAM, says Alan Baratz, president of JavaSoft, a Sun subsidiary.

Licensees will tap JavaOS in the following products:

--In forthcoming Oracle network computers.

--In Acer consumer devices.

--In Toshiba Internet terminals.

--In Nokia telephones.

Despite the similarity of functions between Netscape Communications's Navigator and Sun's duo of JavaOS and HotJava browser, JavaSoft executives say Navigator will remain the top browser. "We're not going head-to-head in the browser-on-the-desktop space," says Jon Kannegaard, vice-president of products at JavaSoft.

In related news, a half-dozen semiconductor and office equipment manufacturers threw their weight behind new Java chip technology developed by Sun, vowing to "Java-enable" everything from the fax machine to cellular phones.

The companies, including giants such as Mitsubishi and NEC, have announced that they will either license Sun's Java chip technology to sell chips themselves or include the Java chip in office equipment or microcontrollers.

Sun has embedded the Java virtual machine on three types of chips. Two of these chipsets -- UltraJava and MicroJava -- are intended for PCs and multimedia, according to Sun Microelectronics president Chet Silverstri. The new licensing announcement concerns the third Java chipset type -- called PicoJava -- which is intended for equipment such as handheld computers or faxes.

Although PicoJava-based equipment is a year off at least, some of the manufacturers shared their vision of what the picochip could do. According to YB Rha, Samsung Group president and chief executive, Java will let cellular phones run programs from a remote computer.

And Beau Vrolyk, a vice-president and general manager of workgroup products for Xerox, says multifunction fax machines could also be used to create HTML pages that could be sent out to Web site.

(Mills is a correspondent with the IDG News Service in San Mateo, California.)

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