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September 28, 1998

MICROSOFT “CRYING WOLF” OVER JPOS

By CBR Staff Writer

Retail industry ISVs we spoke to yesterday say Microsoft Corp is crying wolf in its continued criticism of the Java point-of-sale (JavaPOS) specification (CI No 3,504). Redmond maintains that its own OLE-based specification, OPOS, is fully compatible with Java and that the industry does not need a separate Java implementation of OPOS’ features and functions. Nevertheless, Microsoft has pragmatically agreed to endorse a unified specification supporting JavaPOS and OPOS at the behest of some of t he US’ largest technology spenders, retailers. ISVs told ComputerWire that while OPOS provides an API definition of a semantic layer which can be mapped to other languages, implementations only support Windows and OPOS drivers for point of sale devices that work only on Windows systems. JavaPOS recasts OPOS in Java. Any Java POS driver is a pure Java program and will run on any Java platform, including Windows. However, the same ISVs note JavaPOS still lacks the JSD Java System Database and JSL Java System Loader required for customers to be able to mix and match controls and services – the key elements of a POS system – from different vendors and be secure in the knowledge they will work together. Java-owner Sun Microsystems Inc has promised to make JSD and JSL, effectively look-up directory services, available, but has not said when that will be. Alpha implementations are with ISVs but they’re not expected to be much on show at the retail industry’s next gathering, the Riscon show in Denver next month. JSD and JSL are understood to be quite different to the look-up services Sun is developing for its Jini networked Java infrastructure but they are expected to feature in the JavaOS for Business operating system which will be offered by IBM Corp, Sun and others. Until then, JavaPOS supporters including IBM, Epson, Datafit and others who have written their own driver and controls must go to some lengths to ensure compatibility. OPOS has its own problem with controls and serv ices, mainly because Microsoft has not written a benchmark implementation or endorsed any third party. Because, according to ISVs, OPOS’ APIs are not very tight, when vendors went off and wrote their own control and service implementations many turned out to be incompatible. On the other hand, JavaPOS supporters have already endorsed a Java control written and made available publicly by NCR Corp as the definitive implementation of a Java control.

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