Is Java the next Unix and will it break into different flavours in the same way?
These were questions panelists attempted to answer during a session called 'Java: is it the next Unix?' at Comdex this week.
Dan Berg, director of Sun reseller strategy for Java, pointed out that, in some ways, Java and Unix have similar beginnings and use technology in a similar way, and that portability is key in both.
But he concluded more warily, rather like the rest of the debate, saying the two technologies were "difficult to compare".
Another panel member, Andy Simmons of Symantec, said Sun's licensing differentiates Java. "With Unix it was necessary to license the code," he said.
Panel members pointed out that Java is being used more widely - in smartcards, PDAs and even doorknobs. The embedded market promises to cover everything we use today, Berg said.
The panel agreed that both Java and Unix try to address large scale computing but stressed that the types of standards being set are quite different.
For Unix, the standard was old by the time it received approval. With Java, Berg said, adoption is quick, because of the Internet.
However, while some stressed the newness and innovation of Java, the audience was reminded that Java is not just three years old, but evolved from a generation of C and C++ languages.
The panel did agree that Java suffers from the protocols and "industry nastiness".
"The market leader doesn't want a level field," Berg said, referring to competition for Java. He added that Sun and Microsoft expect their lawsuit, over MS' alleged breaking of its Java licensing terms, to reach a decision any day. Regardless of the outcome and the politics, he said: "Java is here to stay. It's not going away."
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