Archive: November 1998 — Jini, unbottled

In 1998, Sun Microsystems went whole-hog on promoting Jini as a magical technology that could make appliances smarter.

Thermostats that could be controlled remotely, freezers that automatically made

ice whenever they sensed the tray was getting low — basically the Jetsons’ house without the flying car.

In a TV “”Sunergy”” broadcast from Australia, Java evangelist Miko Matsumura went one step further by actually logging himself onto the Jini network, wearing a ring that contained a miniscule smart card.

The public face of Jini was of smart appliances, but the technology promised to find a home in the enterprise. Networked storage products were mentioned as a possible application of the technology.

Neither the dream house nor the role in the enterprise really panned out for Jini technology. interviewed Sun software engineer Simon Roberts in 2002 to find out what happened.

“”That’s an unfortunate side effect of what appeared to be good marketing in the first place,”” he said. “”That actually wasn’t the original intention. It was a very powerful and expressive way of describing it. Unfortunately the analogy got a little carried away . . . .””

When SCO and IBM announced a partnership to develop a Unix-based operating system, few predicted matrimonial bliss.

The marriage was met with comments from the analyst community and other vendors in the market that reflected little or no confidence in its future. Analysts were “”scratching their heads,”” said IDC’s Dan Kuznetsky, while HP UX marketing director Les Wilson pointed to the fragmenting of an already difficult market.

Kuznetsky said the partnership could hurt Unix’s case as an alternative to Windows NT.

Sure enough, Monterey was swept under the carpet and all but disappeared. Intel’s CEO Craig Barrett pointed the finger at IBM, saying Big Blue conveniently forgot about Unix in order to pursue the burgeoning Linux market. SCO was sold to Linux vendor Caldera in 2002, which nipped any Unix initiative in the bud.

Today, SCO and IBM are in the news for a very different reason. SCO is now suing its former partner for unauthorized use of Unix code in Linux-based software.

Taking a Goldilocks approach to personal technology, HP released a not-to-big, not-too-small portable device in 1998. Larger than a handheld, but smaller than a laptop, the Jornada 820 weighed in at 2.5 pounds, with an 8-inch screen and full keyboard.

The device, which ran on the Windows CE operating system, was positioned as a third alternative for mobile computing. “”We want to attract a new class of users,”” said Paul Patterson, sales development manager at HP Canada. “”In the past, (the option) was a handheld device or a notebook.””

Maybe it was the proliferation of laptop computers in the late 1990s — in a range of sizes, weights and form factors — or maybe it was the relative success of rival Compaq’s Pocket PC, the iPaq, but the Jornada 820 faded away. In a momentous deal, HP bought Compaq in 2002 and has retained the brand names that worked best — among them, iPaq.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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