DevCon -- Netscape's Developer Conference
By Wes Thomas
(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
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.
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.
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.
I'll review Drumbeat in my next column.