PACKET RAT

The wirebiter settles in for a cup of Joe amid swarming Java-ites

While Judge Jackson released the guillotine on Microsoft Corp., the Rat was soaking up caffeine with 35,000 Java-heads at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, Microsoft hosted TechEd, a slightly smaller event with 14,000 in attendance in Orlando, Fla.

'I'll take earthquakes over Epcot any day of the week,' vowed the cyberrodent as he descended into the bowels of the Moscone Convention Center for a track on building Enterprise JavaBeans. 'It's much more fun to watch Scott McNealy gloat than to hear Bill Gates obsess about how he'll succeed on appeal.'

But those in the software industry present at JavaOne appeared to have largely gotten over the Microsoft thing. In fact, there was talk about how another company was using anticompetitive practices to profit from its monopoly power'namely, Sun Microsystems Inc.

The scoop from the show was that Sun, which has been ramming an unattractive licensing scheme for Java2 Enterprise Edition down the throats of its partners, narrowly averted an industrywide hijacking of the Java standard by a group of disgruntled software competitors.

Hoping to form an open, nonprofit standards group along the lines of the Object Management Group, the rivals'including IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.'were all ready to launch press releases and carve out a middle path for Java.

At the last minute BEA caved and, according the Rat's sources, Sun put heavy pressure on Oracle to abandon the effort. And when Oracle announced that it had licensed the J2EE branding for Java from Sun, the rebel band fell apart.

'Not a moment too soon,' the Rat sighed. 'They'd have had to stop calling it Java and start calling it Molasses.'

What made some of the big Java players nervous was a little something called Enhydra from a small software company, Lutris Technologies Inc. of Santa Cruz, Calif. Enhydra is a free, downloadable, open-source Java application server with Extensible Markup Language and wireless application capabilities.

The JavaOne showstopper'after McNealy's attempt to sing 'Breaking Up Is Hard to Do''was Steve Jobs taking the stage to promise support from Apple Computer Inc. for the latest revision of the Java run-time client, the cryptically numbered Java2 Standard Edition 1.3. Sun's version numbering makes no sense to the Rat.

J2SE1.3 will be loaded on every Macintosh running Mac OS X'whenever Apple starts shipping X, that is, and only on machines whose buyers ask for X, mind you.

Too little, too late

'Gee, a widely available development environment for the Mac,' the wirebiter snickered. 'That's only about 10 years too late. Or maybe Steve thought Objective C would be the next insanely great thing.'

Also big on the radar screen at JavaOne was the resurrection of Java for embedded devices. The exhibition floor was full of companies with Java-powered cell phones, handheld computers, smart cards and smart cars. The Rat wonders if it's prudent to have Java-powered airbags.

American Express Co. offered a $50,000 prize for the best Java-Card application for its heavily hyped Blue Card. No word yet on what they thought of the cyberrodent's Java submission, which clears the Blue Card's balance and transfers it to Visa at a lower interest rate.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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