PC mentality stalls Java development, Sun says

SAN FRANCISCO — This may be the sixth annual JavaOne conference, but it’s still 1995 as far as Sun Microsystems Inc. president and COO Ed Zander is concerned.

“In 1995, all of us were consumed with our PCs,” Zander told 17,000 attendees at the Java developers’ conference Monday. “It was very hard to get anyone to talk about the Internet. I think we’re back where we were.”

Zander called for developers and partners to create the kind of explosion that propelled the Internet to the forefront of mainstream communications in the middle of the last decade. He noted that Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun has perhaps been guilty of complacency with its Java technology.

“I don’t know whether we take Java for granted. Maybe it’s become boring,” he told attendees.

From Sun’s perspective, the “second generation of the Internet” will come from Java-enabled portable devices and comprehensive Web services. Java will do for devices what the microprocessor did for the computer and what ethernet did for local- and eventually wide-area networks, said Zander.

Java-enabled phones and smart cards were at the top of Zander’s agenda Monday morning. There are currently 40 Java card licensees and 90 per cent of smart cards are developed with Java technology, he said. Applications include credit cards through providers like Visa and American Express, medical cards with memory for patient information and even “smart” military dog tags.

Japan is the current leader in the Java phone market. There are 60,000 new Java phones in Japan a day from telephony powerhouse DoCoMo, which launched the service in January. Europe is also making inroads into Java phones, while North America remains the laggard. That may change within the next year or so, according to Eric Chu, group manager of strategic markets for Sun’s J2ME (Java 2 Mobile Edition). Nextel began a limited deployment in the U.S. in April on Motorola phones, with Sprint and Cingular to come.

There will be an attempt to bring Java phones to Canada on a CDMA network, he said, but he refused to name the telco behind the proposal.

In a further effort to prevent Java from cooling off, Sun will soon make the language on Sony Computer Entertainment’s latest gaming console, the PlayStation2, said Zander. Running on top of Linux, Java can be used for applications like messaging and chat rooms over an Internet-ready PS2. “Sony’s goal is open and secure environments,” said Sony’s chief technology officer Shin’ichi Okamoto. “Java is most suited for this purpose.”

Web services will be a major part of Sun’s enterprise Java (J2EE) in future versions, said Rich Green, general manager of Java Software Development, but the company is asserting efforts to build on its current edition with software announced Monday. A new Web Services Pack will be available for download: JAX Pack, a collection of XML-based Java APIs; Tomcat, an open source implementation of JavaServer pages and

Java Servlet technologies developed by the Apache Software Foundation; and JavaServer Faces, an API for creating Java Web application graphical user interfaces.

‘What you’re seeing today is the start of this DART (database, applications, reports and transactions) architecture on which we can build these services,” said Zander. “Most importantly, it’s based on standards” such as XML, SOAP and LDAP.

But it wasn’t all sunshine for Zander and company. During a press conference following his keynote speech, he was evasive when called upon to address

Sun’s revised earnings projections earlier this year and the more recent stock shortfall. While he described Jini as “alive and well,” he urged pundits to halt criticism and give it another few years to mature.

Jini doomsayers barely ruffled Zander’s feathers compared to the threat of perennial Sun nemesis Microsoft. “The threat of Passport, Hailstorm and .Net is way bigger than any PC threat,” he said. (Hailstorm delivers content to portable devices over Microsoft’s Passport authentification service, comparable to Sun’s Jxta offering.)

“There’s a call to action here,” continued Zander. “Sun has to be working with the Visas and Sonys and Motorolas of the world.”

JavaOne continues through Friday.

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