JavaSoft next week will step into territory that has daunted Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. before it, when it unveils "beyond-the-desktop" versions of Java at the JavaOne Developer Conference in San Francisco.
The new, "lightweight" versions of Java are intended to run on PDAs (personal digital assistants), smart phones and other noncomputer devices. As part of the positioning of Java on non-PC devices, JavaSoft will break Java into four categories: Personal, Embedded, Smart Card and General Purpose.
These new versions of Java are reminiscent of Microsoft's failed At Work effort to bring Windows to office equipment and Novell's similar, and similarly unsuccessful, efforts with NEST.
But JavaSoft has always targeted non-PC devices, and this announcement will formalize that direction, sources said. An advantage of JavaSoft's strategy is that a single application can run across any one of the devices.
JavaSoft officials in Mountain View, Calif., declined to comment for this story.
According to sources close to JavaSoft, the announcement of Personal Java will include a "thin" version of the Java run-time; a subset of the current Java APIs; and a lighter, thinner version of the Java Abstract Windowing Toolkit. The idea is to render Java applets on small displays. Besides smart phones and PDAs, other potential uses are for pagers, mapping systems in rental cars and WebTop devices.
Embedded Java is a subset of Personal Java and is designed to fit and run on top of office equipment such as printers, copiers, traditional telephones and other devices.
Java Smart Card, which was sketched last year as a strategy to embed Java technology into smart cards, will be expanded, though sources declined to provide details. It will also get a major endorsement, as GemPlus will announce support for Java Smart Card.
General Purpose Java will include both the desktop and the server versions of Java.
Sources said JavaSoft's goal is to open the device market to all Java programmers, since the same subsets of applications will be used on all devices to ensure interoperability.