IBM Looks for Big Web Splash with Sash

As the Internet grows larger on the business and cultural landscapes, Webster's Dictionary may have to roll out an edition that covers new words from the Web. You've heard of spamming, flaming, e-marketing, webzines, and host of others -- but here's a new one for you: "weblication."

Weblication is brought to you by IBM. The company has released a test version of a new Web development tool around the nascent term. The tool, called Sash, is a work-in-progress technology that enables developers of all stripes to create Internet applications -- known as weblications -- that fit Windows desktop environments like a glove.

IBM is billing the new technology as manna for harried IT managers who want a simpler way to manage, update, and distribute programs to employees while maintaining the familiar layout and integration of their existing desktop platform. IBM officials say Sash merges the power and ease of Web-based software with the comfort level of the Windows operating environment.

"When you use Sash, you can't tell you're not using Windows technology," says Sean Martin, senior software engineer at IBM. "Now almost anyone can write in HTML and JavaScript, for instance, in network-centric applications that interact easily with the user's desktop."

David Grossman, senior technical staff engineer at IBM, says that interaction creates the weblication that the company is using to promote Sash. "We're defining weblications as applications that are hybrids between Web and desktop applications," he explains. These weblications are network-based applications developed using standard Web development technologies such as HTML, Dynamic HTML, JavaScript, and XML that integrate seamlessly with the Windows desktop, he says. They can run over the network from centralized servers, as standalone applications on the desktop, or as a combination of both.

"People who know how to write Web applications can all use Sash," Grossman explains. "That's hard to do with a browser -- it requires a very high skill and expertise level on whatever platform you're working on. But Sash allows more people who live in numerous Web application environments to build applications that run on desktops but look like they come from a native platform."

Grossman says Sash could reduce the skills needed to build Internet desktop applications, tighten application development time, and easily leverage the platform-specific services and functionality of the desktop operating system.

Written in C++ and DHTML, IBM is taking great pains to explain that Sash is not a proprietary implementation of Web technologies, such as JavaScript, DHTML, and XML. Instead, IBM has bundled open technologies together to create an environment for writing Sash Weblications. Big Blue says the technology should attract developers of enterprise applications, producers of software for sale and rent over the Internet, suppliers of electronic kiosk software, Internet application providers, and Internet service providers.

IBM believes Sash will allow these sites to build and deploy weblications more quickly than using traditional desktop application development technologies. Grossman says Sash weblications will be centrally managed on a server so a company will not have to waste IT resources with desktop-by-desktop installation and maintenance of software applications. "Users don't have to worry about the underlying systems using Sash," he says.

Ideally, IBM wants users to look at Sash as a layer added to the Windows operating services, which enables mapping of both the application programming interface (API) and the graphical user interface (GUI) in the development of programs used to create Web applications. Using current Web page scripting and layout skills, tools, and technologies, developers can use JavaScript, XML, DHTML, and HTML to build an Internet program that functions like Windows desktop applications.

Free 90-day test downloads of Sash are available at The jury is still out on Sash and IBM’s weblication strategy. Some observers, however, are bullish on the technology. "I think (Sash) has great potential in the marketplace once it clears testing," offers Cary Herman, senior advisory analyst at Progressive Strategies Inc. ( "We think that most business applications can really benefit from it."

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