Java heralds dramatic change...
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #315 November 7, 1995 High Tech
One of my
with computers came about in the mid-1970s. I had to perform some
statistical analyses, while a graduate student, using the university’s
frame. While the actual computer was located down at the end of the
in a hermetically-sealed room, attended by operators in white lab
I sat, in my jeans and T-shirt, at a terminal... a keyboard and screen,
in my data. When I was done, I got instant results-- a big improvement
dropping off a pack of punch-cards, and coming back a couple of hours
to get the output.
personal computers changed all that. Suddenly, I could have my own
running software on its own drive. Businesses were often suspicious--
of the lack of control if everyone ran their own software, and have, to
extent, retained control with enterprise-wide software standards and
the Internet hold out the possibility of changing everything, once
and making personal computer platforms and operating systems as we know
(and love them?) today all but obsolete.
for years, sold high-powered workstations... fast computers with big
usually running the Unix operating system, and beloved especially by
These have seemed on the verge of becoming an endangered species...
PCs catching up to them in raw power, and Unix in danger of being
with Microsoft’s Windows NT operating system. Sun, however, has found a
and growing niche for their products as Internet servers-- the machines
actually hold those World Wide Web ‘home pages’ with which it seems
wants to connect.
Web is a pretty
static place... connect to a page, view the contents, maybe fill in a
jump to another page. Sun is setting out to change all that, and in the
change the way we use our computers. In the end this may change the
computers themselves, and drastically change the whole industry built
building, selling, and maintaining complicated personal computers.
a programming language for the Internet. Applications produced using
would be small, single-function programs... instead of a monster
like Microsoft Office, there would be modules for just what you want--
you need to spell check, you’d use a spell checker. But what’s really
is that the Java applications wouldn’t be on your computer’s hard
they could be half a world away, accessible over the Internet.
your Web pages
be truly interactive-- you could view stock information using your Web
while tracking the progress of your stock-picks in an ever-changing
chart, all using applications found on the machine at the other end of
connection, rather than on your computer.
suddenly, the machine on your desktop becomes almost irrelevant. Mac or
Windows or OS/2? None of this matters... in all cases, you’re running
same programs in the same way, and seeing the same thing on-screen.
your computer no longer needs to be a $2000-$5000 machine with lots of
a big hard drive, and the latest and fastest processor. Instead, it can
more like a Nintendo-- a minimal machine that does a single thing, but
it well. Rather than playing games cartridges, it needs to connect to
these Net machines could be mass-produced and distributed, for a
of the cost of today’s PCs. Maybe $200-$300. And while North American
have had a tradition of being technically innovative, they have tended
be much better at producing expensive, high-profit but small
products like today’s PCs. They’ve been much less successful at
those products into low-profit margin, high volume items like the
Nintendos and Segas.
this concept of the Internet ‘Appliance’ is being pushed by Larry
CEO of Oracle, a company specializing in software to access large
databases. Like Sun’s Scott McNealy, he is anticipating a time in the
future when not only our data, but also the applications to use that
come to us over the Web.
still in the
testing stage-- there are currently a few hundred Java applications to
found on the Net. But to run them, you need a Web browser that includes
code, licensed from Sun. None of the current generation of Web software
let you do this-- but the daring have already started to download
next generation prototype-- Netscape Navigator version 2.0, with
replacing your current applications if you’re accessing the Net using a
and standard phone lines... it will take a high speed fiber-optic,
or TV-cable connection to get the speeds needed to make all this
And I don’t even want to imagine the security issues raised by Internet
And how to bill users every time they run an applicatiopn over the Net.
there yet, and
it will be a couple of years before any of this becomes practical... so
throw out your inventory of PCs just yet. But the required changes
be in place quicker than you imagine... bringing with it dramatic
in the way we use computers in our businesses, and in the makeup of
business making money from computers and software.