Just-In-Time Compiler May Be Cause


louis martin
cns news & features

Silicon Valley--

Java, Cafe, Latte. Call it what you want. It's a high-stake market in which all parties are trying to act their coolest. Java is going to revolutionize the software business. Few doubt that. Translate that to the lowest level and it means money. Smart vendors know that.

And with that comes the jitters. Delay getting a product to market, and the competition moves in. With a grin of course, but forget your fondest dreams of wealth, leadership position, whatever. Your window of opportunity slams shut, your star fades into darkest cyber-night.

Hyperbole? A bit, perhaps.

But so far both Symantec and Borland have beaten Sun, or its software divisions--JavaSoft and SunSoft--to market with a key component for Java development: the Just-In-Time compiler or JIT.

Without the JIT, Java applets or programs are interpreted by the Virtual Machine in the client browser. With the JIT, code is compiled and runs much faster--probably about 10X.

Could the lack of a timely JIT end Sun's reign of glory? Not likely. But it could make some application programmers, eager to get started on a project, go elsewhere. And once they've gone elsewhere they may not come back. That's the rule of the supermarket strike, anyway.

Borland offers a JIT for Windows 95/NT and Solaris. Symantec offers a JIT for Windows 95/NT and Mac. That pretty much covers the territory.

But while Symantec offers a complete set of development tools called Cafe, Borland offers less support although a lot of interesting chat on their web site at It promises the equivalent of Cafe--or SunSoft's future development tools called Java WorkShop--as the "culmination" of the release of assorted development tools over the next year. It's name? Latte, of course. In short, they avoid saying when--does that mean it's going to be Cold Latte?--and they failed to return a phone call by posting time. Spaced out? Perhaps.

All three vendors talk about providing the kinds of development tools that C++ programmers have come to expect. So who do they expect their customers to be? C++ programmers, of course.

The Java WorkShop will be written entirely in Java and will be a browser itself, according to the company. SunSoft promises ease of use and an intuitive approach.

Borland's Latte will also be written entirely in Java, the company says.

The Java WorkShop is now available in a beta version without the JIT. Product delivery, originally scheduled for this month, has been slipped to July or August due to user feedback about missing features in the beta version. It appears likely that the JIT will ship with the July/August version, which will sell for $295.

Symantec's Cafe sells for $129 for Windows versions and $99 for the Mac.

Borland currently promotes its C++ Development Suite 5.0, which includes a Java Debugger and JIT. The price is unclear. It is listed both as $349 and $499 on the company's web site. Whatever the price, however, it is more than Cafe or Java WorkShop. The price of Latte, the company's equivalent to Cafe or Java WorkShop, has not been announced.

Microsoft has not been silent during these seminal times in the software industry. It has announced that it will integrate support for Java into future versions of Windows 95 and NT, allowing developers to use more than 1000 existing tools and applications. It has also announced a Windows JIT that will be available in beta form in July. Price has not been announced.

One competitor of the software giant referred to the product as "vaporware." But at least the company had it together enough that a representative returned a phone call.

Java chips are also in development at Sun Microelectronics, but JavaSoft appeared to know nothing about that.

Two official company sources denied knowing anything about them, and a call to Sun Microelectronics was not returned by posting time.

The web page for Sun Microelectronics announces picoJAVA, microJAVA, and ultraJAVA--the first due out mid 96, the second in Q1 of 97, and the third in Q4 of 97. Little information is available about these chips other than that ultraJAVA boosts 3 to 5X the performance of microJAVA, whose performance level is not stated.

Even so, a 3 to 5X performance improvement--even vaguely stated--might seem to catch the attention of a software division with a product as important as Java.

Might. Or are we all ready for decafe?



Return to Technoloyg Page?

Return to Main Page?