Toshiba Information Systems demonstrated at Comdex today a new operating system designed for running Java applications and tailored for Intel-based PCs priced below $700. p> The OS, called JexeOS, runs a graphical interface written in Java on top of a newly developed kernel.
The company, a software subsidiary of Japanese giant Toshiba, said the product could help PCs ward off the threat from the network computer, and it will offer JexeOS to OEMs from mid-1998. But its parent company has not yet decided whether to license the OS for its own PCs, which are largely sold through resellers.
Junya Mizuno, general manager of the JexeOS group, said the new operating system will target the office. He believes it will be able to compete with Microsoft Windows and with NC-type devices by running Java applications faster and by supporting industry standard, but low cost, hardware.
JexeOS is based on a newly developed OS kernel, with a user interface developed in Java. It requires a 100MHz Pentium system with 16Mbytes of Ram. Like NC-type devices, JexeOS is designed to run applications written in 100 per cent pure Java. However, unlike NCs, JexeOS systems will store Java applications locally, and will compile them into native x86 code. This will lead to better performance, says Mizuno, since it avoids lengthy download times and Just-In-Time compile times for frequently used Java applications.
However, Mizuno admits that the Java performance under JexeOS is not yet on a par with that under Windows 95 in certain graphics-intensive Java applications. "The reason is that we now use a VGA driver, while Windows uses special drivers for specific video boards," he admits. Mizuno says his company will develop some graphics board drivers, but expects that OEMs will also write these for specific applications.
Mizuno said the lack of drivers is the reason that JexeOS will probably not be sold as a shrinkwrapped OS, but will be bundled by PC manufacturers, which can opt for one or a number of graphics boards. These OEMs may choose to add Java application suites such as those developed by Corel and Oracle, Mizuno said. OEMs may also choose to change the GUI.
Toshiba Information Systems is targeting both traditional PC manufacturers and companies from the NC space as potential OEMs. These OEMs will pay $65 for the OS, with volume discounts available. The company expects to see the first products with the new OS ship to customers in the second quarter of 1998.
At Comdex, JexeOS was demonstrated on a standard Toshiba Satellite notebook. But though his company is a Toshiba subsidiary, Junya Mizuno says he doesn't know whether Toshiba will decide to bundle JexeOS.
Toshiba Information Systems is hedging its bets, simultaneously launching a Java compiler for Windows 95 and NT called JexeWare. The product is based on compiler technology from Supercede. Like JexeOS, it will compile often used Java applications once, allowing faster start-up than Just-In-Time compilers. The product will be priced at $49.
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