March 17, 1997 10:00 AM ET
Groupware vendors flirt with Java
By Paula Rooney

  Leading groupware companies are following in the footsteps of Lotus Development Corp.'s Java development efforts to give users lighter, more flexible front ends.

Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., Novell Inc. and Netscape Communications Corp. each have either Java E-mail components or applets for browsers and network computers under development, said sources close to those companies.

"We have a mixture of ActiveX and Java components we're doing," said one Microsoft source familiar with the plans for Outlook.

Lotus, of Cambridge, Mass., promises to deliver some components in its "Kona" initiative, including E-mail, word processing and spreadsheets, as early as the summer.

Microsoft has confirmed it is developing ActiveX E-mail and groupware components for browsers, but sources close to the Redmond, Wash., company said it also is developing a Java-based mail applet. "Microsoft is still straddling the fence, but they're not saying it's going to be ActiveX or Java," said Matt Cain, a vice president at Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

One Microsoft official said the "coming together" of Outlook components and Internet Explorer is due next year. But the official wouldn't confirm plans for Java versions.

Oracle showed at Internet World in Los Angeles last week NC Mail, a lightweight, Java mail applet developed using Oracle's Web SDK.

The Web SDK, which will let other developers create other Java applets, will ship with Version 4.1 of InterOffice, due in May.

Novell, which is hoping to get its delayed Internet version of GroupWise server out the door in the summer, has components on the block, but they are not expected soon.

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