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August  1999
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IBM, Sun drop plans for JavaOS for Business

San Mateo (August 23, 1999) -- IBM Corp. officials confirmed today they have discontinued its joint development effort with Sun Microsystems Inc. to bring to market the JavaOS for Business, a thin-client operating system that was expected to be bundled with systems from both companies.

The decision was made, in part, because of the significant performance improvements IBM has made to the Java virtual machine (JVM), particularly on the Windows platform, company officials said.

In lieu of this development, IBM officials added that they plan to more aggressively pursue a strategy of placing a version of the JVM on a number of existing operating systems such as Windows Terminal, Linux, as well as their own proprietary operating systems such as the OS/400.

"When we first developed JavaOS for Business, performance was the No. 1 question when it came to Java -- the JVMs were not up to par. But since then we have seen a vast increase in performance on JVMs,'' a spokesman said.

Earlier this year IBM announced it had developed what company officials believed was the fastest JVM on Windows.

Last year, Tom Jarosh, general manager of IBM's AS/400 Division, told InfoWorld his group was considering coming to market with an OEM version of the AS/400 that would serve as a dedicated Java server. That system was to feature a 64-bit version of the JVM, a cut down version of 64-bit OS/400 operating system, and be available with several Java-based vertical applications.

The company abandoned that idea earlier this year because it could not deliver a cut down version of OS/400 without taking out critical functions. Just recently however, the company is revisiting that initiative, with some sources more hopeful that the company can deliver such a version. That effort should also get a boost with this latest decision to abandon JavaOS for Business.

Another reason for abandoning the JavaOS for Business project was the lack of an industry standard browser to use with the would-be operating system. Many users would prefer to have just the JVM, which can slap onto Netscape's Navigator or Microsoft's Explorer, IBM officials said Monday.

IBM has licensed the OS to multiple OEMs and company officials said they would offer to support those OEMs and any customers they sell it to.

"There might still be uses for it [JavaOS for Business] out there for certain tasks, and where it is we plan on supporting those OEMs and users," a company spokesman said.

--Ed Scannell, InfoWorld Electric

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Sun scoops up Forte to pad tools offerings

San Mateo (August 23, 1999) -- Sun Microsystems will pay $540 million in stock for Forte Software, an Oakland, CA-based application server and associated Java tools vendor, in a bid to improve Sun's tools and application server offerings.

The addition of Forte to Sun's past acquisition of application server maker NetDynamics and its tight partnership with America Online on the Netscape Application Server (NAS) -- now the iPlanet server -- may seem redundant, but analysts point out the Forte tools and new pure Java run time may be just what Sun needs to fill out its application server and Java tools portfolio.

Arriving in September, Forte's pure Java SynerJ server is designed to allow teams of developers to collaborate on component development and assembly, as well as provide a 100% Pure Java run-time deployment platform, officials said.

SynerJ aids in developer collaboration through features such as a repository-driven component management system; secure configuration management; and version control of source, binary, and third-party components, as well as collaborative development testing and distributed debugging of code among developers and across machines, Forte officials said.

Daryl Plummer, an Internet applications analyst at the Gartner Group, in Atlanta, calls the SynerJ suite an innovative and effective development environment that will well complement Sun's products, which have needed better tools.

Former Sun executive Alan Baratz said in June the company was actively shopping for such tools, and companies such as Symantec and Inprise were often cited as potential targets for acquisition.

Sun said Monday it will offer 0.3 shares of its stock for each of Forte's shares, or about $22 per share, for a total of $540 million based on Friday's stock prices.

Forte will keep its name as a subsidiary of Sun after the deal is completed by year's end, Sun officials said.

Currently, the Sun-Netscape Alliance is working to jibe the NAS and NetDynamics servers, neither of which has a native Java run time, to produce the iPlanet line of servers and associated tools, which is due by the first quarter of 2000 and was to become a fully Java platform. The iPlanet enterprise-class server was to initially rely mostly on the NAS code base for its run time and rely heavily on the NetDynamics tools.

Now, with the Forte acquisition, the move to a pure Java run time may come more quickly and help meld the three servers together to provide a set of robust Java tools for creating enterprise-class, Java- and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB)-based Internet-commerce applications.

However, this most recent Sun acquisition fuels questions of why Sun bought NetDynamics in 1998 at all, and whether it may have paid a dear price to align with the AOL-owned NAS products, according to analysts. Indeed, speculation on faulty merger logic mounted to explain Baratz's unexpected resignation earlier this month.

Forte's SynerJ suite contains three modules: SynerJ Developer, a standalone development environment; SynerJ Server, an EJB deployment environment; and SynerJ Deployer, which can map distributed Java and EJB applications into mixed environments.

The server supports EJB 1.1, including container- or JavaBean-managed persistence and so-called Session Beans. In addition, the server supports some of the features of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition set of specifications, which are formally due by year's end.

All of the tools can be used with other Java products to let developers mix and match Java code within the Forte environment and deploy them on the front or back end.

SynerJ also supports the CORBA object standard and Component Object Model, and includes Extensible Markup Language and Internet Inter-ORB Protocol integration adapters, as well as adapters for several leading application packages and middleware technologies.

Although Forte will continue to support its proprietary application development environment, named Tool, and will launch Tool, Release 4.0, in the middle of 2000, the company had planned to emphasize Java-based development because it is a more open standard. The Sun acquisition certainly makes that very likely.

--Dana Gardner, InfoWorld Electric


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Hot Chips forum: Sun details MAJC appliance chip

San Francisco (August 17, 1999) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. today fleshed out some technical details for its Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing (MAJC), which it hopes will be used to power a new class of networked appliances for accessing music, video, and other media-rich content from the Internet.

To meet the needs of a high-volume consumer market, MAJC (pronounced "magic") was designed to deliver solid performance at a low cost, and to run a range of devices, including gaming machines, TV set-top boxes, and telephones with small video screens.

Not surprisingly, MAJC was also designed to make light work of programs written in Sun's Java programming language, which the company is pushing hard to become the underlying platform for applications and services delivered over the Internet. MAJC can also run programs written in C and C++, Sun said.

Chips based on the MAJC architecture will be able to process complex graphics and voice data, and compute at very high clock rates in networked environments, according to Sun. The company has said it will make chips based on MAJC itself, and will also likely license the architecture to third-party chip makers.

Sun unveiled a few design features of the MAJC at the Hot Chips forum in Palo Alto, California, an annual symposium where some of the brightest semiconductor engineers gather each year to discuss the latest advances in silicon. The presentations are mostly arcane and focus on the minutiae of chip design.

The MAJC architecture was designed to allow more than one processor to be squeezed on the surface of one silicon chip, Sun said. The design draws from DSP (digital signal processor) and VLIW (very long instruction word) architectures to improve the handling of "natural data types" -- or digitized analog sounds such as voice or video.

Chips built around the architecture will be able to execute four instructions in parallel, allowing data to be processed more efficiently, Sun said.

Sun disclosed its plans to develop MAJC earlier this month (see " Copies of Chief Architect Marc Tremblay's Hot Chips presentation on the MAJC architecture will be available on the Internet beginning Aug. 18 at, Sun said. The company will disclose the first actual processor based on the architecture, which will be used to boost the capabilities of a Sun workstation, at the Microprocessor Forum in October in San Jose, California.

--James Niccolai, IDG News Service


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Sun, StorageTek forge alliance

San Mateo (August 13, 1999) -- Just days after its main competitor, EMC Corp. announced plans to purchase one of its main technology providers, Data General Corp., Storage Technology Inc. (StorageTek) inked a deal with Sun Microsystems Inc. that should help bolster the company's enterprise offerings and allow Sun to expand the reach of its disk technology. The agreement includes a technology swap, via OEM (original equipment manufacturer) relationships, as well as marketing and services arrangements. Officials at both companies said the overall result will be reduced costs and increased simplicity for companies implementing storage networks.

The specifics of the deal call for StorageTek to act as OEM for Sun's next-generation modular disk technology, adding software and networking functionality to it. Sun, in return, has agreed to act as OEM for StorageTek's next-generation tape automation systems. The resulting products from both companies are expected to be available later this year.

While the deal will provide StorageTek a much-needed technology partner at a time when IBM is moving away from its OEM deal with StorageTek and partner Data General has been snapped up by EMC, the agreement could be equally important to Sun if StorageTek is successful in transitioning the disk technology to a variety of platforms.

"Sun has done a great job of doing supercomputing technology and bringing it to the masses, but it's difficult for them to have credibility going into other platform environments because people will think Sun might drag Solaris there," said Walt Hinton, chief strategist at StorageTek, in Louisville, Colorado. "Since we're the Switzerland of storage, we can come in and offer this product without customers having to worry about the platform they're running."

The companies have also announced that they will assist each other in marketing and servicing storage products, and that StorageTek will support Sun's Jiro initiative, which is targeted at providing a Java-like platform for the development of storage applications.

--Michael Lattig, InfoWorld Electric


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Java maven Baratz unexpectedly departs Sun

San Mateo (August 3, 1999) -- Sun Microsystems announced the shocker resignation today of Alan Baratz, president of the Software Products and Platforms division, who will become an executive at a venture capital firm.

As the head of Sun's Java efforts in the past several years, Baratz has ushered Sun deeper into the software realm than the hardware company had ever tread before. He oversaw the conceptualization, drafting, and wide dissemination of dozens of Java specifications in a bold bid to set new industry standards and take on software powerhouse Microsoft.

Baratz, 44, will join New York-based Warburg, Pincus & Co. on its information technology team, which was formed last year. The privately held company, which manages some $12 billion in assets, has investments in such companies as BEA Systems, Covad Communications, EarthWeb, Level One Communications, Nova, SHL Systemhouse, and Veritas Software.

Until the Software Products and Platforms division was set up earlier this year at Sun, Baratz had for three years been the president of the Java Software division. According to a Sun spokesman, the timing of Baratz's leaving came as a surprise, although Sun executives knew that he wanted to move on. Baratz was promoted in June, however, which made his departure more of a surprise to Sun officials.

Jon Kannegaard, vice president and general manager of the Java Platform division, will take over Baratz' role on an acting basis, reporting to Sun President and COO Ed Zander. Sun said it would begin an "aggressive search" for Baratz's replacement.

Baratz, who will remain at Sun for only two more weeks, was heading up the Solaris, Java, Jini, and developer tools product lines, as well as Sun's developer relations program. He was a familiar figure at Sun product launches and press conferences, often the one deferred to by Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy to take on technical issues and questions.

Baratz was also the product launch ringleader at the June JavaOne conference in San Francisco, at which Sun launched the Java2 Enterprise Edition and MicroJava set of specifications.

The resignation will amount to a significant loss for Sun, said Anne Thomas, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston.

"It's always very challenging for a company to lose a CEO, and Alan was essentially the CEO of Java. He's been able to keep the 'church and state' parts of Sun separate," she said, referring to Sun's stewardship of Java specifications (church) and its own development of Java-based products (state).

"It's a loss. He's been a good coordinating force in the JavaSoft organization. He was both good at the technical and managerial side. I'll miss him as the head of the group," Thomas said.

In hindsight, Baratz may have come under some criticism for Sun's acquisitions activity in recent years, Thomas added. Both the NetDynamics and Diba acquisitions have not played out well for Sun, while other companies, notably tools vendors, might have been ripe for plucking but we left on the branch, Thomas said.

Another analyst said Baratz's shoes will be hard to fill, and that the position forms a critical role at a critical time for Sun.

"It takes a strong personality to compensate for Sun's aggressiveness," said Tim Sloane, an analyst at Aberdeen Group in Boston. "[Baratz's leaving] is a huge hole within the Sun/Java alignment. You take a look at all the issues that confront Java right now. I couldn't think of a worse time to pass the baton," Sloane said.

"You have all the Java cloners pushing and testing the licensing model," Sloane said of current challenges for Java. "You have efforts that span Enterprise JavaBean all the way down to the embedded devices.

"It's such a huge operation, and its leader needs to be both relationship and technically savvy. You don't bring in someone from Pepsi to do this ... [and] you have to be careful not to jerk the rudder too hard with a mismatched candidate," Sloane said.

Sloane ventured that Pat Sueltz, IBM's general manager of Java Software, would be a top-tier candidate to replace Baratz.

"I think Pat has done an excellent job. She has the business savvy and also understands the technology and has strong customer interaction. She also comes across as a straight-forward individual," said Sloane of Sueltz.

--Dana Gardner, InfoWorld Electric


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Sun to take wraps off Java appliances chip

San Francisco (August 2, 1999) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. has developed architecture for a new Java-based chip that it expects to be used to power devices in the emerging information appliances market.

Sun hopes the architecture, called Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing (MAJC), will soon be used to make chips for use in TV set-top boxes that access the Internet and in mobile computers, games, video used in TVs for image conferencing and graphics and other newly-developing appliances, Russ Castronovo, Sun's public relations manager said today.

Technical details of the architecture will be unveiled in two weeks, and the processor that MAJC will power will be released in early October, according to Castronovo.

Sun is hoping that the introduction of the chip and the increased use of Java-based appliances will increase the attractiveness of other Java-based products sold by the company, Castronovo said. "We sell Java servers and workstations, and that's what we want to see people using, " he said.

MAJC should capture the imagination of many users of new information appliances, said Tom Halfhill, an embedded processor analyst with Cahners MicroDesign Resources, publishers of Microprocessor Report.

"It (MAJC) is going after a segment of the market that the technical people all say will be a huge market, including for set-top boxes capable of doing e-mail, running a browser and other functions of a PC," Halfhill said. "The main thrust of the product is Java, and anything Sun can do to make Java better is good for Sun."

Sun will make MAJC chips and may possibly license the architecture to other firms to make chips for their own devices, Castronovo said. Pricing details were not released.

--Jack McCarthy, IDG News Service


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Sun-Netscape Alliance has high hopes for Lat Am

Fort Lauderdale, FL (July 29, 1999) -- The collaboration launched recently by Sun Microsystems Inc. and the Netscape division of America Online Inc. (AOL) began to operate in Latin America on July 1 and expects to post annual revenue gains of 300 percent, an executive said last week.

The so-called Sun-Netscape Alliance, whose charter is to market and develop Internet and electronic commerce software and services, has about 12 staffers devoted exclusively to the Latin America region in the areas of sales, pre-sales, channel management and marketing, said Carol Heller, marketing director for the Sun-Netscape Alliance in Latin America.

"Companies in Latin America are ready to invest in electronic commerce. The market is ready," Heller said.

The Latin America unit will receive support from corporate headquarters for areas such as professional services, technical support and administration, she added.

The Sun-Netscape Alliance was announced in November 1998 when AOL was in the process of buying Netscape, and its officers were appointed in March 1999. The Sun-Netscape Alliance isn't a joint venture nor a subsidiary, but rather a "virtual company," Heller said. Employees working for the alliance continue to be employed by either AOL or Sun, said Heller, who comes from the AOL/Netscape side. The regional director of the alliance for Latin America is a Sun executive called Jos Luis Sanchez, she said.

The Latin America headquarters of the Sun-Netscape Alliance are in Cupertino, California, said Heller, who is based in Boca Raton, Florida. The alliance also has staffers in Brazil and Mexico, she added.

The Sun-Netscape Alliance recently announced that it will market its products under the iPlanet brand name.

--Juan Carlos Pérez, IDG News Service


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