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JavaSoft Officials Talk Future and Fracture (cont.)

Despite his bluster on stage, Baratz told reporters that HP executives had assured him they had no intention of encroaching on JavaSoft's intellectual property. He said it would not be necessary to sue over the dispute the way Sun sued Microsoft for allegedly breaching a license agreement.

"I actually believe we've just devoted more time to what HP has done than the impact that it will have in the marketplace," Baratz said mid-way through the press conference. But the questions about HP kept coming.

He cautioned that JavaSoft had no details on what HP was delivering or whether it conforms to the open license that essentially allows anyone to create a Java virtual machine based on the published specifications. However, HP told Internet World it had created a full implementation of the JDK 1.02 specification except for those classes related to the user interface, known as the Abstract Windowing Toolkit, and Baratz said the licensed attached to the specifications requires that the full specification be implemented.

"If someone takes the spec and implements it minus AWT, that is a violation of the licensing agreement that's on the specification for the JDK," Baratz said.

JavaSoft has created its own subsets of the JDK with PersonalJava and the just-published EmbeddedJava specifications, but it has not granted the same open license for anyone to implement those technologies. "I'm not saying that we won't do that, but at least not until they've stabilized," said vice president of technology and architecture Jim Mitchell.

Although HP complained about the licensing fees, Baratz said that didn't seem to be the major issue.

"As recently as the Tuesday night before their announcement, I asked, 'Suppose we were to waive the licensing fees altogether? Would that solve the problem?'" Baratz said. He might have agreed to waive the fees if HP agreed to contribute something to the development of the Java platform in return, he said.

But HP officials told him that wouldn't change their position because what they really disliked was the way JavaSoft was running the development of the standard, he said. And JavaSoft was not willing to agree to turn Java over to a traditional standards organization the way HP suggested, Baratz said.

"What we learned through years of experience with Unix and other technologies is that process tends to run slowly and involve a lot of compromises," Baratz said. So JavaSoft tries to achieve consensus among its business partners on the contents of a standard, but it reserves the right to be the ultimate arbiter when they cannot agree, he said.

JavaSoft officials also spent some time clearing up confusion about the Java Server Engine product they plan to ship this summer, which some had seen as JavaSoft's entry into the application server market that would compete with products like the Netscape Application Server and WebLogic's Tengah. They said the product doesn't have such grand ambitions, being more of an adaptation of the servlet model introduced by the Java Web Server for use in non-HTTP applications.

"I think one problem is that the semantics of the words we use to talk about this stuff have gotten muddy," said Java's creator, James Gosling. "When we talk about an application server today, we usually mean something like you get in a product like Kiva that comes with a lot of high-level sophisticated tools that are very specific. The Java Server Engine doesn't have all those high-level tools. It's more of a general purpose low-level substrate for building network servers," he said.

Baratz said JavaSoft will slow the introduction of new Java technologies this year in order to concentrate on consistency, compatibility, and performance. In May, JavaSoft is promising to deliver the first version of Java Jumpstart, a CD-ROM full of tools for deploying a consistent Java virtual machine across an enterprise which includes the Java Activator component for controlling the virtual machine used within a browser.

The first version supports Windows 95, Windows NT, and Solaris, but future releases will include JVMs that other JavaSoft partners will supply for their platforms, Baratz said.

JavaSoft said the next release of the Java Development Kit, which includes a host of long-promised improvements to the base technology, will follow this summer.