Sun Microsystems Inc’s offering a simple but ingenious way to get around Microsoft Corp’s incompatible implementation of the Java Development Kit JDK 1.1 by offering an OCX ActiveX control for Internet Explorer called Activator which will simply go out and grab the latest Java virtual machine from Sun’s web site. The tool scans the system for the virtual machine it needs as Java code is downloaded and if it doesn’t find it, asks the user if they want to download the latest JVM from Sun. The current JVM 1.1 is 3.2Mb in size and doesn’t when downloaded doesn’t overwrite pre-existing JVMs. An early version of Activator Sun and some unnamed partners have written for Internet Explorer 3.02 and 4.01 is available now; a second beta due early next year will also be provided as a plug-in for Netscape Navigator 3.0 and 4.0. Sun is also offering a wizard called the Java Activator HTML Converter that can automatically modify a company’s web pages to support Activator and enable any user to take advantage of Sun’s RMI, Java Beans components and Java Foundation Classes. Because Sun can effectively supersede whatever JVM a user has installed, observers speculate that Activator might even lead Netscape and Microsoft to wind down their own JVM work. JavaSoft chief, Alan Baratz said Activator was designed to give older browsers access to the newest Java technology, and was in development even before Sun slapped Microsoft with a lawsuit for breaching its Java contract and not shipping a compatible JDK 1.1. He said JavaSoft’s looking at how Activator could be used to retrieve just incremental upgrades to the JVM once a user downloads the current JDK 1.1. Sun expects most interest in Activator to come from companies developing software for intranets, and says the move de-couples the worry about changing browsers and still maintaining 100% Java compatibility. The move is a further escalation of the war between Sun and Microsoft Corp over Java standardization, although Sun maintains Activator does not fix Microsoft’s breach of contract.
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