Sun Microsystems and IBM yesterday delivered their collaborative JavaOS for Business, a centrally managed Java objects server platform designed to link and serve NCs and various Java-enabled devices in the enterprise.
Available now, the Intel-only JavaOS for Business includes development tools, an OEM adaptation kit, device drivers, beefed-up server-side management software, and testing and certification programs for the platform.
The ability to meaningfully use the Java-based system, however, is still a number of months off. The product is being offered initially only on Intel-based, x86 devices. It won't be aligned with Sun's JavaStation and IBM's Network Station until early next year. Support for other platforms and chips sets would be forthcoming, said officials, declining to be more specific.
The current release - which will be upgraded when the next Java virtual machine (JVM), Version 1.2, arrives in November - is now expected to spur the development of hardware devices, drivers, and vertical applications that can take advantage of Java, server-driven platforms. The client side of the offering requires at least 8MB of space on the client hardware.
IBM and Sun - along with supporters BEA Systems, Lotus Development, Netscape, Oracle, SAS Institute, Tivoli Systems, Informix Software, Computer Associates, Applix, Cloudscape, Nemasoft and Sybase - expect ISVs and hardware makers to quickly line up behind the new network operating system.
By releasing an OEM developer's kit and signing licensees not currently committed to producing NCs, the JavaOS partners are broadening the platform's focus and bringing it into more direct competition with Microsoft's Windows CE, according to one observer, who asked not to be named.
Another analyst, J.P. Morgenthal, president of NC Focus, said: "This is really not about the business desktop any longer. This is to get buy-in from the automatic teller machine makers, handhelds, and point of sales terminals.
"The message is they haven't given up on the enterprise, but it's less likely to be successful so they will go after the market for the extensibility of applications."
IBM and Sun officials today said they don't expect JavaOS for Business to drive PCs off of desktops, but do expect it to become the coordinating factor behind transaction-intense terminal-type devices like NCs and myriad vertical industry devices, including input and output devices, point of purchase devices, as well as wireless handhelds.
"The whole idea is not to push a general-purpose PC off the desktop. [Win32 PCs] will continue to grow and prosper. But in a bunch of very interesting - and very big - vertical markets there are devices not well served by that model," said Jim Hebert, general manager of consumer and embedded systems at Sun.
One of the first targets is the retail sector, IBM officials said, as well as for kiosks and Internet-commerce vending outlets such as ticket machines. Sun and IBM on today mentioned Toshiba and Fujitsu as OEMs building such devices.
The companies had no benchmarks on the server's scalability, though officials said it would be adaptable to the types of uses enterprises sought.
The latest JavaOS for Business feature set includes easier systems management, remote administration of thin-clients, tools, and APIs for server-side management of JavaOS clients (both OS and applications), a device driver interface for creating platform-independent drivers, and leverage of JavaBeans interfaces for managing device drivers.
Additional management improvements include the ability to reconfigure JavaOS systems without rebooting.
KeyLabs, which currently administers the testing and certification of Java applications, will also offer JavaOS conformance testing and certification, while IBM through its seven Java Solution Studio centres will offer training and pre-testing.
The JavaOS for Business marketing strategy also includes vertical industry education and support programs.
JavaOS for Business supports Version 1.1.4 of the Java Development Kit (JDK), as well as Windows NT and Solaris servers, and provides international language support, according to the companies.