Baratz says Java licensing restrictions to change

Upcoming version of Java will be real-time

By Elinor Mills

June  1998
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Scottsdale, AZ (June 2, 1998) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. is preparing to change wording in a developers license that restricts the use of the technology in the aviation and nuclear industries, Alan Baratz, president of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java Software Division, said today at GigaWorld IT Forum 98.

The wording, part of a binary license posted on the World Wide Web for developers downloading the free Java Developers Kit v 1.1.6 says the "software is not designed or intended for use in on-line control of aircraft, air traffic, aircraft navigation or aircraft communications; or in the design, construction, operation or maintenance of any nuclear facility."

Those licensing restrictions "are not unique to Java but are common across all Sun products," Baratz said during a question and answer session following his keynote address. "All Sun products carry exactly the same licensing text. Sun is in the process of not loosening, but eliminating that licensing text."

Baratz did not specify when the change would be made.

Previously, Sun has been criticized over its confidential source code licenses. Java licensees had complained that fees and royalties of the agreements were too high and that they were not made aware of Sun's plans for potentially competitive products. When it folded its JavaSoft subsidiary back into the company in a reorganization in May, Sun said it would share more information with licensees about the direction it would take Java and its own Java products.

Baratz made it clear in his keynote speech that Java should not be pitched as a Windows-killer. "The Java technology is not an operating system," he said. "It wraps an operating system with new network-centric programming functionality.

"The Java technology will never replace operating systems, Baratz said. "It will always be a layer above operating systems that provides new functionality."

While Baratz acknowledged a significant movement in the industry toward using Java on servers, he said there is no strategic transition of client-side Java to Java on the server.

The problem with deploying Java on the desktop is that graphical user interface (GUI) classes in client software like operating systems make it much harder to develop for, he said. "There's no windowing environment on the server," Baratz explained. "That's why the uptake has been so rapid on the server side."

The Java Foundation Classes (JFCs) that enable cross-platform usage bring more functionality at the cost of size, which is problematic for client-side Java on the Internet, he added.

Baratz addressed user complaints about the inability of corporate users inside a firewall to download Java applets via the Internet, and of the length of time it takes to download some applets in general. Users accessing Java applets over an intranet are not compromised because of their higher level of security, he noted.

"It will take us a while longer to get to the point where this technology on the client side (in corporations) will be equally important on the Internet," he said.

Upcoming versions of Java will be faster than today's Java, which runs at half the speed of natively compiled code, according to Baratz. "You cannot use Java technology today for real-time applications," he said. "However, the Java we're coming out with will be real-time."

The next release of the Java Developers Kit (JDK) will maintain security while enabling Java applets to access more local system resources, Baratz said. Users will be able to specify different levels of security and access based on whether applets have digital signatures verifying the sender, he said.

He predicted that within two to three years, the number of Java-enabled devices, including PCs, phones, handheld computers, and smartcards, will at least double to 140,000. Tele-Communications Inc.'s plan to use Java on every one of its TV set-top boxes will contribute greatly to that growth, according to Baratz.

"Initially, most of these boxes will use Windows CE as the operating system," he said. But then developers can write applications to the Java platform. "That way if TCI, over time, wants to unplug Windows CE" and plug in another operating system the applications won't have to change, he said.

In response to an attendee's question, Baratz assured the group that Java can co-exist with XML (Extensible Markup Language), which lets developers use a neutral format so documents can be converted to HTML or any other format.

"There's a huge synergy between XML and Java," he said. Java applets can be used to provide a rendering engine for XML, he added.

--Elinor Mills is a correspondent with the IDG News Service


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