Java will get a four-year birthday party of sorts this week when Sun Microsystems introduces its Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.2 at the Java Business Expo, in New York.
Among the party guests will be IBM, with the next version of its WebSphere Application Server and an updated version of VisualAge tools for Java.
A slew of companies will leverage Java's new capabilities, as well as those of the new kid on the block - Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB).
"JDK 1.2 is a huge step forward from where [Sun] was a year ago. The most visible improvement is the Swing user interface. Some of the underlying stuff like security is much more important to the server environment," said Doug Pollack, vice president of marketing at GemStone Systems, now delivering its GemStone/J 2.0 EJB application server.
"It's much richer and you should see more consistency," said Anne Thomas, an analyst at Patricia Seybold Group, in Boston.
But not everyone is excited by Java's latest iteration.
"To me, Java is nearly an irrelevant story. Microsoft has been successful in devaluing it from a platform to a mere language. It's an important language, but the `write once, run anywhere' mantra is not true," said Vernon Keenan, an analyst at Keenan Vision, in San Francisco.
Many users remain keen on Java, even if its critics decry its rocky evolution on the client and Sun's dictatorial stewardship of Java as a cross-platform standard.
"We are very interested in Java. I see it as probably halfway mature, as a young teenager," said John Bercik, systems manager at the Medical University of South Carolina. "It's very exciting with a huge amount of potential. Everyone here has changed their mind-set over the last year. We want data everywhere."
IBM will release Version 2.0 of its WebSphere Application Server, Advanced Edition, along with an updated version of its VisualAge for Java, Enterprise Edition. Both will arrive by the end of the month.
WebSphere also now supports EJB, allowing corporate developers to deploy components and applications on virtually any server across an enterprise. The new server also contains several other Enterprise Java Server (EJS) features.
"The Advanced Edition with EJB is primarily aimed at those who need reusable components," said Paraic Sweeney, vice president of marketing for IBM's Web Server products. "The December release is the first glimpse of the EJS, plus servlet engine, which will be merged in 1999.
"The December release is essentially [WebSphere] 1.1 with some performance boosts, plus the EJS," said a source close to IBM.