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The No Decaf Juice on Java

September 1998
If repurposing digital content from a catalog or brochure to a dynamic Internet site is part of your average day at the office, you better get your fill on Java!


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


Java junkies say the appeal of Java applications is that they are easy to distribute across networks and can run on any computer platform. Some proponents believe the adoption of Java will jog a move to the network computer. Others predict Java will play a bigger role than originally anticipated in the management and delivery of content over the World Wide Web.

Why does Java matter?

Since its introduction three-plus years ago, Java has been brewing. "Clearly, Java is becoming ubiquitous on the World Wide Web for delivery of a huge variety of content—you pretty much can't go to a Web site these days without downloading a Java applet of one type or another. Some firms are even using Java for software distribution," reports Chuck Gehman, manager of technology at Digital Art Exchange (DAX).

"Without question, Java has and will continue to change everyone's user experience of the Internet as time goes by," the DAX technologist continues. "What's more, Java holds the promise of finally providing excellent cross-platform capabilities. But right now, it is still just a promise."

Or is it?

Java is expected to play a key role in its parent, Sun Microsystems' corporate strategy of focusing on the management and delivery of content over the Internet. Sun Microsystems, bravely challenging the giant that is Microsoft by introducing the Java platform, believes the adoption of Java will precipitate a move to the network computer—a low-cost device that will pull programs off the network as needed.

What is Java?

Java can be looked at from a few different perspectives. Microsoft, for example, views Java as merely a new programming language and is building Java into its platforms.

Java can also be viewed as a platform. When a program is written in Java, it can run on any platform—cutting ties between the program and any specific platform. This approach—elevating Java beyond the scope of a mere programming language—is quite radical and revolutionary.

If you ask Sun Microsystems, the Java platform is a fundamentally new way of computing, based on the power of networks and the idea that the same software should run on many different kinds of computers, consumer gadgets and other devices.

Whatever the perspective, one thing remains constant: Java, as a platform, is the most hyped development that has come along in years. Problem is, there continues to be so much hype about Java and its rapidly introduced and, arguably, incompatible versions 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, that Java can't possibly deliver what the hype promises.

"There are a lot of expectations for Java—that it's the way to achieve platform independence since Java, unlike traditional programming languages, adapts itself to any given platform on the fly, which is brilliant and elegant in theory and, when successful, in execution," explains Paul Trevithick, chief technology officer at Bitstream.

When is Java not so elegant? Java, still evolving, is more sluggish than traditional programming languages.

"The promise of Java and reality are still disconnected after all these years. The performance isn't there; the platform is still immature," Bitstream's Trevithick cautions. "But there are good things about Java, very good things, especially in the area of Internet appliances." Currently, Bitstream is beta-testing its first Java offering, JET, a font renderer completely written in Java.

Corel's new Java initiatives are designed to help the desktop publishing and commercial printing industries leverage the power of Java.

Corel's jBridge is a thin-client technology that lets 32-bit Windows applications running on a Windows NT server be deployed to any client running a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Since many desktop publishing applications are written for the Windows platform, jBridge technology promises to expand the range of choices available for hardware to access these applications.

Where's the benefit?

jBridge would let companies continue to leverage existing technology investments while moving forward into the world of Java and multiplatform network computing. Corel is also developing OpenJ technology for assembling Java applications from individual JavaBeans.

Corel's Java(Beans) vision?

"Corel is committed to developing applications that maximize the potential of Java," reports Derek Burney, senior vice president at Corel.

"We're looking forward to helping Java unfold as a key technology in the future of computing."


WHAT IS JAVA?

Java has captured the imagination of people around the world. Why? Because Java has the potential to lower companies' operating costs at the same time as it increases productivity.

Corel and many other software developers are putting a huge effort into developing Java to the point where it will be used widely. For example, IBM is enabling everything from its mainframes to its terminals in Java; Oracle is enabling its databases in Java; and Corel is working to become a leader in Java applications.

Java has many technical attributes. Here is a quick look at two important ones.

FIRST: It's portable.

Because of the exponential growth in Web usage, people are performing more and more of their daily work using this interconnected environment rather than with traditional, isolated software applications.

Programs built with Java can run on almost any computer. Java Beans' components make collaborative work inside and outside a company and with clients or partners much simpler. The ability to run on most systems within an enterprise makes it an ideal solution for the new wave of thin-client server computing.

Java can easily take large applications off a personal computer and run them from a central server, where they will be cheaper and easier to control. For companies, this lowers the overall cost of owning and operating computer systems.

SECOND: It's modular.

When Java first appeared, companies instinctively tried to translate their existing applications into Java, disregarding Java's unique characteristics. Now people are realizing that the strength of Java lies in its ability to create tiny, lightweight applets that can be assembled and disassembled as needed. This makes Java ideal for writing applications that run centrally on a network, since users will only need to download the pieces of the application that they need to use instead of the entire application. It also makes Java applications highly customizable by allowing companies to add, remove and rearrange components without having to modify the Java source code.

Corel has made the most of Java's strengths by creating OpenJ technology for application assembly and jBridge technology for application deployment. These types of tools signify the direction of Java development for the future. Java, with its portability and modular architecture, lets us connect and collaborate like never before. Because of these powerful capabilities, Java will certainly play a major role in the future of computing.

More information about Corel's Java products is available at www.corel.com.
 

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