New Tool May Revive Interest in Client-Side Java

BOSTON (06/02/2000) - Vendors revamping their server products to support the latest enterprise Java technology won't be the only companies making news at next week's annual JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

The company hosting the show, Sun Microsystems Inc., will unveil a new product that could revive interest in Java on the client. The company's WebStart, which will be available this year, will provide a mechanism for downloading and caching Java applications.

Right now, users typically have to execute a Java applet each time they visit a site. With WebStart, they will be able to click and download the Java application only once.

WebStart is based on Java Network Launcher Protocol, which makes sure the user has the correct Java virtual machine (JVM) needed to run an application. If the user's machine doesn't have it, the JVM is downloaded from a server along with the application, according to a source familiar with the product.

Many developers have shunned client-side Java work because of slow performance and uneven support for critical Java technology in browsers.

"This addresses some of the [performance] issues people had in deploying client-side Java," said Steve Garone, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts. "We're going to see more interest in Java on the client" as use of products that try to work around browser-based Java problems increases, he said.

Although WebStart will address some issues, some companies may still be reluctant to use client-side Java.

"WebStart [may] solve the performance issues of loading classes, but not the firewall issues that some corporations are uncomfortable with," said Kas Naderi, CIO at in Atlanta. He noted that some companies don't permit their employees to download Java.

Naderi said his company plans to use server-based Java in setting up its electronic marketplace for municipal bonds but plans to use only HTML, JavaScript and perhaps JavaServer Pages to meet its client needs.

In other news at JavaOne, IBM Corp. plans to announce a tool set, WebSphere Business Components and Enterprise JavaBeans components that aim to speed development of Web applications. Component target areas include supply-chain and customer relationship management in financial services and other industries, a company spokesman said.

WebSphere Business Components will ship this year. Early versions are available on IBM's alphaWorks Web site.