News and New Product Briefs (10/01/97)

Symbol offers wireless, pen-based NC

Symbol Technologies is ready to debut the PPT 4300, its pen-based mobile thin client with backlit VGA screen, familiar QWERTY keyboard, and pen -- all in a tough package that weighs approximately three pounds.

The PPT 4300 uses an integrated 2.4GHz radio to maintain a connection to the network (LAN or WAN). Citrix's WinFrame software allows the NC to access Windows applications. It also supports several operating systems (DOS, Windows 3.x, and Windows 95) and terminal emulation (VT220 or 3270), making it easy to run apps and update files from a server.

The ,950 PPT 4300 uses ROM and flash memory, which should allow it to run for up to six hours before recharging, according to Symbol officials. First plans are to use the units in a hospital setting, to access and update patient records from a patient's bedside.

Here comes the JavaStation (finally)

October 1997 will be the one-year anniversary of the introduction of Sun's JavaStation. It may also mark the commercial release of the network-centric device.

The JavaStation is due out this quarter, complete with the integrated 100MHz MicroSPARC IIep processor, which comes with a built-in PCI interface, memory management, and floating-point capability. The device will also come with a Java-optimized just-in-time (JIT) compiler.

Perhaps the real news is not this release of the JavaStation but what will come with the next (and subsequent) releases. According to product marketing director Steve Tirado, here are some JavaStation enhancements to look forward to:

  • Multiple bus -- support for multiple bus interfaces, including PCI, USB (Universal Serial Bus), and 1394. Sun is already hammering out solutions with add-in-card and other peripheral vendors to develop supporting PCI, USB, and 1394 software drivers. Expect multiple-bus support by mid-1998.
  • Communications hardware -- Sun is making the JavaStation hardware communications-friendly with support planned for Token-Ring, ISDN, and asymmetric digital subscriber line.
  • Java-specific processors -- Sun plans to incorporate the MicroJava processors into the JavaStation. MicroJava processors execute Java natively, reducing memory needs.
  • Open boot -- as part of a Solaris management package, Sun plans to include Windows NT boot APIs to make a JavaStation bootable from both Solaris- and NT-based servers.

DialAmerica telemarketing buys 4,100 Neoware NCs

DialAmerica Marketing (which markets magazine subscriptions for more than 60 percent of the magazine publishing market) has purchased 4,100 @workStations from Neoware to be installed in 70 DialAmerica telemarketing call centers. This will create one of the largest deployments of network computers to date.

In the call centers, employees connect headsets to the @workStations and use an on-screen telephone icon to activate the call, at the same time viewing the calling customer's data. Besides the online phone and customer database access, DialAmerica employees can use word processors to compose letters and email to communicate with co-workers and supervisors.

"We selected the @workStation because it has the simplicity of a terminal with the advanced networking capabilities we need," said Russ Martocci, DialAmerica's senior VP. "Compared with personal computers, the Neoware NCs are much easier to use, and they'll cost significantly less to maintain." He added, "Because of the flexibility of the Neoware machines and the Neoware netOS operating system, we were able to create custom applications for our unique environment."

Symantec ships two new editions of Visual Cafe for Java 2.0 family

Symantec has made available two new editions of its Visual Cafe for Java 2.0 product family: the Professional Development Edition, an advanced, multi-platform, RAD tool for developing Java applets and applications; and the Web Development Edition, an entry-level, easy-to-use, full-featured integrated Java and HTML authoring tool.

The Professional Development Edition is the third-generation release of Symantec's Java development tool for Windows 95 and NT 4.0, and is designed for use by developers who need to write, debug, and deploy powerful Java-based Internet and intranet applets and apps.

What makes Visual Cafe for Java 2.0 Professional Development Edition special? It gives developers faster compilation, compilation of Java source directly to native x86-based code, integrated support for JDK 1.1, JavaBeans, and incremental debugging. This edition includes Version 2.0 of Symantec's Visual Cafe IDE.

This tool is available now and is expected to sell at 99.95. Upgrades from Symantec Cafe and Symantec Visual Cafe are offered for 9.

The Web Development Edition lets Webmasters add Java functionality to their Web pages without having to learn Java programming. It's also useful for professional developers who are new to Java and who need to write, debug, and deploy Java apps across multiple platforms.

The estimated price for this entry-level tool is 9.95 and includes the latest version of Symantec Visual Cafe for Java 2.0, as well as Symantec's Visual Page HTML Web authoring application and Preview Release Netscape Communicator with JDK 1.1 support. To assist Java novices, Visual Cafe for Java 2.0 Web Development Edition also includes the book Teach Yourself Java 1.1 in 21 Day by Laura Lemay and Charles L. Perkins.

Blue Lobster paves the way to Web/mainframe connectivity

To give corporate and third-party developers the ability to establish Web-to-mainframe connectivity, Blue Lobster Software Inc. has released a Java-based software development kit (Stingray 3270 SDK) and server software (Mako Server).

The two products work together, allowing developers to either connect to a mainframe through 3270 terminal emulation or connect directly to CICS-based (mainframe transaction processing system) servers. According to Blue Lobster, these two product offer an alternative to Web-to-mainframe tools and applications and help eliminate the need for developers to use proprietary servers and languages.

The Mako Server includes the Mako client, a full implementation of the CICS ECI set of interfaces, and software for transparent mapping of CORBA to CICS and to JavaBeans. The Stingray 3270 SDK and the Mako Server are both available now. The Stingray SDK costs 95. Contact the company for pricing on the Mako Server.

IBM won't make NetPCs

IBM announced it won't deliver a NetPC-compatible device, even though it plans a line of low-end PCs that incorporate some NetPC features.

Feedback from inside IBM, as well as from corporate clients, convinced the company that the most financially lucrative path would be to build manageability features into its desktops, rather than to build NetPC-specific units. Corporate users told IBM they didn't foresee much need for NetPCs.

"Our users were telling us they don't want a unique device for better manageability," said Jim McGann, worldwide marketing director for the IBM PC. "They want better manageability in all systems. They need a common management platform that fits into their enterprise architecture. Users told us we were right on with the manageability we had in the GL system we released in April, the XL in May, and the PL in August. They wanted us to continue focusing on these sorts of systems instead of something unique." These systems had such built-in management features as Wake On LAN and LAN Client Control Manager.

The new line of low-end Pentium PCs, due in October 1997, are variations of the 300 GL systems. They will run Windows 95 or NT 4.0, be sealed without a floppy drive, and cost about ,000.

And even though the NetPC may have been created solely to divert attention from the NC, PC manufacturers may have learned a valuable lesson. IDC analyst Bruce Stephen put it this way: "There was this rush to [build a NetPC] and be part of this group that was created largely to go against the mindshare. Many vendors were doing it for marketing purposes and to be part of a united front against NCs." He added that the lesson PC makers can learn from the NetPC is that it's better to focus on broader capabilities (such as, management tools) which can be used with a whole range of products, rather than focus on a single "form factor."

Where (and what) is the NetPC now?

The NetPC, the Microsoft/Intel answer to stall (and perhaps, destroy) the concept of network-centric computing, may be fading into the background, as PC makers add more management features to their devices and the cost of PCs comes down. These changes have confused the concept of the NetPC with a regular PC in the minds of resellers and customers.

So what are analysts and former supporters saying now about the NetPC?

Kimball Brown, Dataquest: "There never was any point to the whole NetPC thing. It was just the first iteration of managed PCs. It was just the attitude: 'We have to make noise against the ugly specter called the network computer'."

Tom Rhinelander, Forrester Research: "It was a silly concept from the beginning. Nobody understood the terminology. There just wasn't much excitement among end users."

Rick Belluzzo, Hewlett-Packard VP/GM: "PC pricing has come down rapidly recently, so the position of the NetPC is a little less clear. I also think people are increasingly understanding that the issue of cost of ownership is the way you manage your Internet and having the technology to remotely control and diagnose the product. I think that's the area where the NetPC doesn't solve the problem."

Bruce Stephen, IDC: "There was this rush to [build a NetPC] and be part of this group that was created largely to go against the mindshare. Many vendors were doing it for marketing purposes and to be part of a united front against NCs."

Jim McGann, IBM marketing director: "[The NetPC specification] is only four months old. It's in its infancy still. Our users were telling us they don't want a unique device for better manageability. They want better manageability in all systems."

NetCOBOL enables Internet access to COBOL apps

Fujitsu Software Corp. announced NetCOBOL, a COBOL compiler that generates Java-based applications and applets from legacy COBOL programs.

NetCOBOL programs run on any device equipped with the Java virtual machine. The programs can run as Java applications or applets. The generated programs comply with the full ANSI COBOL standard, X3.23B 1989. NetCOBOL comes with event-driven GUI programming extensions that are platform-independent. It has an embedded SQL preprocessor with JDBC support, so your generated apps/applets can use data from DB2, Oracle, Sybase, and SQL Server databases. You can create interactive COBOL-driven Web pages, as well as mix COBOL and Java code in the same program.

NetCOBOL is an add-on component to Fujitsu COBOL Professional and costs 50. It runs on Windows 95 and NT 4.0.

More Java wars: No applets on Microsoft's site

Tim Sinclair, editor-in-chief of the Microsoft Web site, has decided to remove the Java applets from Microsoft's site.

Of the more than 570 applets, Sinclair said, "I made the directive for two reasons. Sometimes they [the applets] are large, and downloading [takes a long time]. And we are looking for better compatibility across browsers and other platforms." Sinclair's ban is generally for the navigational Java applets, and some exceptions may be made.

It should take between 30 and 60 days to remove the applets. Plans are to use HTML and JavaScript in place of the Java applets.

And what does Sun say?

"They're cutting off their nose to spite their face," said George Paolini, director of corporate marketing. Paolini said that removing the applets is like "putting your finger in the dike of a floodgate that is open right now."

Network and Java-based computing: Oracle creates new site

Oracle's new network computing Web site advertises the concept of network-centric computing. It begins with the "N-slash-C" logo, which disappears to be replaced with the words "not complicated," "not costly," "no compromises," and "network computing." You are then whisked to a series of six photos, each linked to a concise philosophy on various aspects of network computing.

The topics: The requisite overview ("What is Network Computing?"); Developers (Why develop Java apps, how to develop, and so on); Education (leveraging the easy maintenance and control); Business (TCO); MIS/IT (really leveraging the easy maintenance and control); and Home (someone's fantasy).

If someone is new to the idea of network computing or needs to convince their employer that network computing is the way to go, this site presents a clear picture of the NC concept and provides some rationale of Java-based network-centric computing.

Oracle rewrites Enterprise Manager database software in Java

Oracle is rewriting its Enterprise Manager database management console in Java to increase portability and remote access capabilities, and to add capacity planning and change management modules.

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