Cellphone makers, washing machine manufacturers and hi-fi companies were rubbing shoulders with network nerds and software gurus in San Francisco last night as Sun Microsystems launched a new technology to bring them all together. Jini -- the Java Intelligent Network Infrastructure - links anything that can run Java, has networking capabilities, and offers automatic configuration and connection.
Announced last July, Jini has attracted interest from the likes of Sony, Philips, Hitachi, Siemens, Motorola and Ericsson, among others. Jini promises much, from the prosaic -- add a printer to your network, and everything will automatically know about it and be able to use it, to the futuristic. A Jini-enabled oven, for example, will be able to tell your television to interrupt your programme when the cake's done.
At a pre-launch breakfast meeting Dick Gabriel, one of Sun's Distingushed Engineers and a key member of the Jini design group, told ZDNet that Sun would be encouraging "a market economy" among Jini developers. "If there's a hole in what's being done, we'll fill it." he said. "But mostly we expect people to decide among themselves what needs to be done and we'll support them in that". He added that the Jini code would be available under Sun's community source licencing scheme, where anyone can see and use the source code without payment but would start to pay once products shipped. He quoted two pricing schemes -- ten cents per unit or $250,000 flat rate per year for a product line: "Just enough to pay for the lawyers and a handful of developers."
Some source code is expected to become available later today, with commercial devices turning up towards the end of 1999.