IBM and Sun Team Up for JavaOS

When Sun Microsystems Inc.’s JavaOS for NCs didn’t turn out to be the roaring success Sun had expected, the company looked for a partner. That partner had to be willing to join forces in developing a new Java-enabled operating system for a specific sector of businesses that it believed Windows wasn’t addressing.

Having a mutual competitor in Microsoft Corp., the shoe fit for IBM Corp. The resulting partnership culminated in the two computer giants co-announcing the JavaOS for Business operating system software. The product gives companies a way to centrally manage business applications using Java technologies in network computing environments."There is indeed a specific market that isn’t well addressed by Microsoft," says Tim Sloane, an analyst for the Aberdeen Group Inc. (Boston, Specifically, Sloane says that includes, "bank tellers, security guards, key punchers and everybody else who has a very narrow responsibility to a company and needs devices specific to their environment. "This can be managed centrally with high reliability and repeatability, and that’s not what Windows was designed for."

Jim Hebert, a spokesman for Sun, says the new OS has been 4 months in the making and comes with two deliverables: a development kit for drive developers and an OEM adaptation kit for managers.

Features include central administration of the entire client and the ability to dynamically reconfigure systems without reboot. David Gee, IBM director of Java marketing, says the new software is designed to run on the Intel architecture and allows access to 3270 and 5250 applications. Gee also warned that each client needs 8 MB of RAM to run any of the applications.

Amy Wohl, president of the consulting firm Wohl Associates (Narberth, Pa.), which specializes in office automation, PCs/workstations, applications and systems software, and end-user computing, says one of the biggest problems in the enterprise is that you’re never operating on one system and that it’s more common to have three or four generations of systems running heterogeneously. "If you want to have an application for everyone to use, the JavaOS gives you a more standard level of abstraction," says Wohl. "JavaOS allows you to take a piece of software, download it from a server and the applications will all run together."

Wohl also commented that being able to manage this process all from one place is one example of why this product is designed for the enterprise user. She said that now that companies are looking at terminal replacement strategies, and smaller businesses are looking to replace client/server pieces, companies have begun to look at the Web as more than an alternative solution. A JavaOS is just one more step in that process.

IBM and Sun also announced related JavaOS for Business support programs for industry partners, including software tools, testing facilities and educational assistance. Both companies plan to integrate JavaOS for Business in their products -- IBM on its network station computers and Sun on its JavaStation products -- in 1999.