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 CD Home < Web Review < 1997 < Jun 20  


DevCon -- Netscape's Developer Conference

By Wes Thomas
Rank: 3

(SAN JOSE) Crossware! That was Netscape's rallying cry at the Netscape Developer Conference (DevCon) here last week.

Crossware is enterprise (intranet) software that crosses the boundaries between platforms, languages, networks and devices, as well as between the "networked enterprise" and its extranet (partners, suppliers and customers).

Netscape Senior VP of Technology Marc Andreessen laid out Netscape's vision for Crossware in a keynote address and in a white paper.

His main announcement: Netscape will use Sun's JavaBeans as the component architecture for its Netscape ONE platform. (The Netscape ONE platform is a collection of Internet/intranet development languages and tools.) JavaBeans are modular blocks of Java software code that snap together to create apps instead of reinventing the wheel each time.

"Write once, run anywhere, re-use everywhere," as Sun puts it. This is Netscape's not-so-secret weapon against Microsoft's component strategy (such as ActiveX), which limits you to 32-bit Windows systems and has downloading security problems.

For starters, Netscape Enterprise Server 3.0, Netscape 3.0 and Communicator already support a subset of JavaBeans. Andreessen also announced that a new technology called BeanConnect is built into Communicator. It allows for multiple JavaBeans on an HTML page (or across pages) to work together to create an integrated Java app.

So how do you (a developer) get started using JavaBeans? Andreessen gave a sneak preview of Visual JavaScript (preview beta now available), which lets you drag 'n drop components to build apps. He also said Netscape ONE services -- including messaging, directory, security, publish and database access -- can be accessed as JavaBeans, and that Netscape plans to add transaction processing, calendaring, workflow, events, message queueing and media services.

In addition, more than 50 companies plan to deliver over 90 pre-built components in a new Crossware Components Directory on the Netscape DevEdge Online site. For example, NetFactory has developed NetCharts for graphic data display.

CORBA services, plug-ins written in C or C++, HTML and JavaScript can also be presented like JavaBeans in Visual JavaScript. Andreessen also hinted that Netscape is coming out with a way to automatically create JavaBeans from existing Java code (cue: audience applause).

Zooming out to the DevCon conference, there were dozens of informative sessions over the three days in three tracks: application services development, scripting and Web site development, and site architecture and management, plus two other keynotes:

  • Intel's Andy Grove presented his vision of networked PCs (with some impressive demos) and unveiled Intel's VTune 2.5, which lets you fine-tune your Java code for optimized performance.
  • Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy pushed the Java platform (surprise, surprise) and Java pioneer James Gosling described the next version of JavaBeans, codenamed "Glasgow," which offer drag and drop capability (so Beans can export and import code to other Beans or objects) and other enhancements. Gosling also said the Beans Development Kit (BDK) will soon sport ActiveX components.

    "So if you use Beans, you're not locked out of Microsoft," Gosling explained. There's a joke in there somewhere.

Plus there was a Netscape demo area surrounded by approximately 100 third-party exhibitors. Some of the hot third-party products announced:

  • OMNIS Studio Data Access Manager, the first Rapid Access Development (RAD) tool for developing Crossware;
  • Diffusion's IntraExpress, for subscribing to business information as a Netcasting channel;
  • Onlive! Technologies' LiveList, client/server software for real-time group communication and messaging over corporate intranets or the Internet;
  • Netiva Software's Java-based Netiva, which allows non-programmers to create multi-user relational databases that are automatically networked and deployable on corporate intranets;
  • SGI's Cosmo Player 1.0 VRML client as a component of Netscape Communicator.

Drumbeat My pick as the hottest product of the show: Elemental Software's Drumbeat, which lets you create media-rich dynamic Web sites with database integration and capability of using drag and drop components to create JavaScript code.

I'll review Drumbeat in my next column.

Copyright © 2003 CMP Media LLC