Hot topics in print
2. Network Computers
3. Internet Commerce
4. Web TV
5. Digital Video Disks
'Java remains one to watch,' we said last month, and we were right.
'Network security will probably be in the limelight for some time to come,' was slightly less accurate, and it has dropped out of our six of the best.
But security issues, whether in connection with Java, cryptography or Net commerce, still have an important bearing on how the media see IT.
Java has reclaimed the top spot, but cryptography has slipped to number six, with Net commerce and Web TV the new entries. We class network computers - this month's number two - as an Internet technology, primarily because coverage has tended to focus on IP standards and Java as key enabling factors.
The only Net-free survivor is Digital Video Disks (DVD). Recordable DVD, which should really break the video-tape stranglehold on the home entertainment market, may soon be fit for the market. Indeed, many hardware companies are predicting affordable DVD players by 1997.
Attracting the interest of business users seems to have taken a back seat, but the development of a large domestic installed base should encourage both the IT industry and business to invest.
Finally, last month's top two - intelligent agents and browsers - have slipped right down the list. Clearly, the fight of the century, Microsoft versus Netscape, has exhausted media interest. It certainly isn't over, but the lull in coverage is a welcome relief to all those who thought it was a childish spat in the first place.
This Internet programming language has stormed up the chart to regain the number-one spot. Interest has been sparked by a new round of ventures, the arrival of competitor Activex from Microsoft, IBM's decision to back the Network Computer and the ongoing explosion in the uptake of intranets.
Many of these aspects are true of other Internet-related hot topics, but media folk have taken the Java issue to heart because it represents another stick with which to beat Microsoft. Last month it was Netscape, now it's Sun.
The Press seems to agree that Activex has more features and better expansion capability than Java. But Java has a loyal following simply because it's cross-platform. Also, the introduction of Javabeans will help Java keep its fan-base. However, whether the industry gets serious about Sun's baby depends on continuing support for 'real' applications, the growth of the Network Computer and above all, whether Activex can be sold into enough businesses to develop a critical mass.
This is a pertinent question in light of the fact that Apple and IBM are the highest profile supporters of Java. In the meantime, whether it really does become an operating environment or just a programming language, Java remains a tool that no company systems department can afford to ignore.
During the Gates versus Ellison debate at the IDC European IT Forum in Paris, the Microsoft supremo claims Internet Explorer is the fastest browser for running Java apps. He also says that J is the fastest Java compile, and that Java is 'a great environment'. But he still doesn't like the Network Computer (NC), which Ellison claims will be the Java-enabled machine.
Multimedia Futures 23 September
IBM builds support for Java application development into the new release of OS/2 Warp, making it the first OS with built-in Java support, according to Big Blue. But brand manager John Howard prefers to highlight Warp's built-in voice recognition.
Reuters News Service 24 September
Scott McNealy claims Sun wants to use NCs across the organisation. He evangelises that Java is ideal for applications where similar processes are continuously repeated, such as with bank tellers. He also admits Java was an accident, and that Sun won't make any money out of it.
Computergram 24 September
IBM is really pushing out the NC boat. With Java support included in the new Warp, the whole company can start singing from the same hymn book.
It seems that Java could be just what IBM was always looking for to tie together all its divisions - a true cross-platform application solution.
Business Wire 25 September
As well as IBM, Apple is extremely keen to get in on the Java cavalcade.
At the Networld+Interop show in Atlanta, Apple and Sun announce that Javabeans can be embedded in Opendoc containers, and Quicktime will be incorporated in Javamedia applications.
Computergram 27 September
Hewlett Packard is stitching Internet technology into the latest version of HP-UX, including Sun's Java Virtual Machine. This will allow it to run Java apps, and HP expects to announce a Web-based application for the enterprise later this year, code-named Arrowhead.
PC Week 30 September
Java is symptomatic of today's development market: companies need people who can spot technologies with the potential to succeed. Symantec bet on Java for this reason, and it is typical of IT companies taking calculated and profitable risks.
PC Week 30 September
Positive reaction to Java from the mainstream Press is critical, and the thin client-plus-Java vision gets another boost today. Todd Finch, president at Netscape Canada, apparently has no local storage media in his office.
Toronto Globe and Mail 1 October
The real battle of the browsers is Java versus Activex. Microsoft is saying Activex runs Java, while Netscape refuses to support Microsoft's next-generation technology. Critics claim MS is simply applying old Windows technology to the new environment.
Network Computing 1 October
Microsoft is looking to hand over Activex to the X/Open standards group to help it catch up with Java. But, with Sun playing hard to get, and the Internet Engineering Task Force also in the running to handle Activex, Java could remain the de facto leader in the market.
Computergram 1 October
Jack Schofield says that the battle between Activex and Java is a case of functionality against interoperability. Microsoft is marketing Activex with Java included, while at the same time running down its capabilities.
But Java applets are less likely to interfere with your own operating system. Success for both systems hinges on popularity: which one will be the common language of the Web?
The Guardian 3 October
The Java Database Connectivity Protocol (JDBC) will allow developers using SQL to access data in Java apps. Developed by Javasoft, JDBC is platform-independent, just like Java, and is ideal for querying databases over the Internet because it uses applets. Other Java Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are also hitting the market to cash in on Java's success.
PC LAN October
Four of the developers responsible for Java have set up Marimba Inc, which releases Castanet to help Web site providers cut back on the amount of time users have to wait. Animation, audio files and news-feeds are 'transmitted' to users who retain part of the required applications locally, saving on bandwidth and download time.
Reuters 6 October
IBM, Intel, Lucent Technologies and Novell are some of the companies backing the Java Telephony Toolkit from Sun. This will create a standard platform for Internet and computer telephony, and avoid any problems with platform compatibility. Java-enabled smart telephones are the next step.
Communications Week 7 October
Sun is launching a Java-based Network Computer on 29 October. It claims the cost of running the NC will be about $2,000 annually, as opposed to $10,000 for a traditional PC. But the Java environment is best suited to one-application terminals, such as airline reservation desks.
Computerworld 7 October
Some OS/2 software developers have complained that IBM spent too much time hyping the inclusion of the Java Virtual Machine in the latest version of Warp. There are other aspects of the operating system that make it more competitive, and IBM's manic zeal for Java and open networked computers could be going too far.
Software Futures 7 October
Net-It-Now from Net-It Software can transform Word, Excel, Powerpoint and other document formats into the Java Jdoc form. This allows any Java-enabled browser to examine the file with the embedded Jdoc player.
Infoworld 7 October
UK-based Olivetti Research Labs has created a Network Computer virtual LAN. It allows staff to manipulate documents and run applications by logging into the intranet through their Internet access. Staff use a Java applet to create a working environment that is consistent wherever they log in from and whatever hardware they use.
Newsbytes 9 October
Security fears surrounding Java (and Activex) come to the fore. Java's supposed limitation on affecting host computers may be flawed, and many intranet sites are configured to reject Java applets from Web sites.
Computerworld 10 October
Factory intranets using process-control Java applets are the aim of Sun's latest collaboration with several IT developers. The cross-platform capability means that true enterprise-wide solutions are feasible. This addition of manufacturing automation applications will significantly broaden Java's appeal.
Work-Group Computing Report 11 October
Java's easy-to-learn language and similarity to C++ have made it ubiquitous.
But its long-term survival depends on whether it becomes a platform-independent environment and not just a programming language. Nevertheless, software houses can at least concentrate on R&D rather than scripting program for several different platforms.
Midrange Systems 13 October
Sun has released a processor architecture which will handle Java applets at up to 20 times the speed of Intel-based processors. The Javachip includes a Picojava-I microprocessor core, and several chip companies have agreed to build processors incorporating the technology. Products should start to ship by late 1997, including smart phones and PDAs.
EDP Weekly 14 October
The US Postal Service has embraced the Internet, and plans to offer specialist email services. Bulk mailers will also be able to use a Java applet to calculate postage rates, which will be available on the company's Web site.
Reuters 16 October
Sun has confirmed the final specifications for the Javabeans API (available at http://JAVA.sun.com/beans). Several companies, including Apple and IBM, have already announced support for the standard. Developers can use it immediately with the Java Developers' Kit which contains subsets of Javabeans.
Business Wire 16 October
The messaging industry is trying to create a new generation of messaging tools based on Java. This would solve many of the problems caused by mailing between different platforms. But there is concern that this move is designed to ease the lot of application developers, not to benefit the IT community.
Infoworld 16 October
A fragile agreement has been reached by the developers of Digital Video Disk technology (DVD), whereby Philips will license patents to the three other companies involved: Toshiba, Matsushita and Sony. It is claimed that royalties for the technology will be 'split according to an agreed-upon formula', and Philips and Sony will participate in the further development of DVD technology with Toshiba and Matsushita.
The Wall Street Journal 16 September
On 21 September, Hollywood film companies announced encoding technology that ensures DVD disks can be played only in one of the six regions of the globe (ie European disks on European players only). The film industry says the system is not yet perfect, but should cut down on potential casual piracy by the public.
Sunday Times 22 September
In late September, IBM and Apple joined the DVD production alliance, led by Sonic Solutions, which aims to promote the technology. Analysts claim that, as digital video editing and production equipment becomes widely available, larger companies will develop new titles specifically for DVD which will drive the market for DVD players.
Macweek 23 September
Sharp Laboratories of Europe (SLE) claims that it will develop a re-writable DVD unit within two years. The company says the device will require a semiconductor laser with seven times the power output of today's DVD equipment.
Electronics Times 26 September
The experimental gallium nitride (GaN) crystals formed in very thin layers are used by Toshiba to generate a DVD laser with a wavelength of 417nanometres - down from the typical 650nanometres of the red laser - which is more than enough to deliver high-definition video. The development is judged to be the closest any company has come to developing a blue laser. However, the device is still a long way from the low-cost, continuous wave version that will be needed in real-world applications.
Electronics Times 26 September
Japanese company TDK announces that it has developed a recordable disk - known as a DVD-RAM - that will have 2.6Gb of space, said to be ideal for storing multimedia programs. The company says the disk will be available in the New Year.
New Scientist 28 September
To comply with US government restrictions on the export of powerful encryption, the DVD standard restricts encryption to a 40-bit key. But experts claim it will be easily cracked by professional pirates.
New Scientist 28 September
Now that a DVD security standard has been agreed, consumer electronics companies Matsushita Electric Industrial and Toshiba will begin shipping DVD machines in November. Sony and Philips Electronics have delayed the launch of their machines until Spring.
Wall Street Journal 11 October
An Intel spokesman says all the parties negotiating a way of storing scrambled data on DVDs so they cannot be pirated - mostly representatives of Hollywood - seem to be happy with a solution, after months of negotiation.
The system is said to involve encrypting the I-frame, which contains data vital to the next frame being played on DVD.
Wall Street Journal 14 October
Dataquest estimates that 22 million DVD units could be sold by the turn of the century, with DVD players eventually replacing the CD-ROM and video-cassette.
Wall Street Journal 14 October
A major drawback of transaction-oriented applications is that the use of Transaction Processing (TP) monitors has required developers to write in 3GL code, such as C or COBOL. Encina , from Transarc, is said to lessen the blow with support of C++ object-oriented development, and class libraries, easing the development of transaction-processing applications.
Application Development Trends September issue
IBM's Integrion Financial Network is said to use a secure intranet environment with IBM's value-added Global Network.
It is claimed the system can be accessed through a browser, and via the Internet with secure firewalls on the network and at the banks' servers.
It is anticipated that access could be made through financial software packages and touch-tone telephones. Trials are expected early in 1997.
Information Week 16 September
The top 20 US advertising agencies have established interactive and Web advertising units. This shows that the business community is beginning to take the idea of Internet commerce seriously.
Communications Week 16 September
Electronic components manufacturer AMP is launching the AMP Emerce Internet Solutions division, which will help set up Internet-based product catalogues for other companies. The article says the success of AMP's own Internet catalogue site had prompted the move. AMP's director of electronic commerce is quoted as saying that the company is 'beginning to write some definitions for the requirements of business-to-business electronic commerce'.
Information Week 16 September
IBM is to set up its Integrion Financial Network with 15 US banks. IT will allow users to check account balances, make transfers, pay bills, shop electronically and request loans. The service could also provide trade securities data, stock quotations and, in the future, access to mutual funds. According to analysts, IBM could have made a 'brilliant strategic move' by becoming a service provider for the banking institutions, while the institutions will not have to pay a toll on electronic transactions as is the case with services from Microsoft, Intuit and others.
Electronics Times 19 September
Barclays Bank is expected to steal a six-month lead on its rivals with the launch of a UK PC-based banking service at the end of the year, using a proprietary network rather than the Internet. Natwest is projected to follow in mid-1997 with 'the most technically advanced home banking application' in the UK, and the first major commercial implementation of Java.
Computer Weekly 26 September
A report by the Yankee Group has shown that budgets for corporate security have increased by 25 per cent as more transactions take place over networks through Web pages or email addresses. Some analysts believe that digital certificate technology will be the way of the future in transactional security solutions.
Communications Week 30 September
Natwest Bank is to supply 11,000 undergraduates and staff at Exeter University with Mondex electronic purses, regardless of who they bank with. People with Natwest accounts can load cash on to the cards from 30 special BT telephones on campus. Other account holders must use special machines that transfer money from their debit cards on to their Mondex cards.
Electronics Times 10 October.
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