If you had any doubts about Sun Microsystems' commitment to Java, its browser strategy should lay your fears to rest. The computer giant is developing not just one, but two new Web browsers written entirely in Java.
The products, one brand-new and the other a revamp of the HotJava browser, will not compete directly with PC-based browsers from Microsoft and Netscape.
Sun will aim the Java browsers at equipment vendors and Web application developers that will build the software directly into their applications.
Besides HotJava, there are no significant pure Java browsers. Fortunately, Netscape and Microsoft include a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) in their respective browsers, so their products can download and run Java applets.
Due out this month is the new Personal Applications Browser, which is aimed at handheld devices.
The Personal Applications Browser runs on top of Sun's Personal JVM and takes up just 280KB of read-only memory, according to Karen Oliphant, Sun's product line manager for the new software. The Beduin-created browser works with HTML 3.2 and supports some HTML 4.0 extensions.
The second browser, the upgrade of what used to be called HotJava, is due to be released by mid-year, says Scott Ryder, Sun's Java browser product manager. The browser, which will get a new name, will work with any Java Development Kit from Version 1.1.6 onwards.
Ryder says that the user interface of the HotJava upgrade has been designed to be more like the most popular browsers. Users will also be able to change the browser's settings much more easily.
But Sun may have a tough job ahead convincing users that its Java browser technology will be better than Navigator or Internet Explorer.