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Pioneer sees Java in watches, phones, smart cards

SAN FRANCISCO-Java has developed far beyond what James Gosling originally pictured, and it will continue to change the way people communicate with each other, the creator of Java said at the Software Development '98 conference here Thursday. Gosling said he never envisioned the language-developed within Sun Microsystems Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO-Java has developed far beyond what James Gosling originally pictured, and it will continue to change the way people communicate with each other, the creator of Java said at the Software Development '98 conference here Thursday. Gosling said he never envisioned the language-developed within Sun Microsystems Inc. (SUNW) to solve specific problems-becoming so popular and having such wide applications.

He said the language's introduction to the Web has led to the ensuing "nuttiness"surrounding Java. Today, Java boasts thousands of devotees and a 10,000-member-plus lobbying group committed to its proliferation. Gosling said while many today use the language for wide-scale applications in corporations, the language also will see a return to its roots. One of Gosling's original visions for Java was that it would add complex features to handheld devices such as smart cards, phones, and watches. "While they're just starting to show up, they will impact on the way people interact with information that runs their enterprise," said Gosling, who's part of Sun's JavaSoft division.

Java-powered appliances also will affect consumers' notions of communication, Gosling said. For example, Gosling's mother, like many people, uses the phone daily to talk with friends. He sees Java enhancing the functions of such devices. "What happens when she and her friends can actually chat and play bridge at the same time without getting in their cars and driving through the snow?

Gosling said some of the greatest challenges Java developers face are scaling Java and the virtual machine both downward-to smart cards and other appliances-and upward-to large-scale machines such as mainframe computers. "One of the reasons this has been difficult for us is that the number one thing we get anal about is consistency from one platform to the next," Gosling said. He said Java continues to prove itself against more mature languages such as C++ and in many cases has doubled developer productivity.

Another challenge is keeping the language pure and simple, Gosling said. "I have a pretty thick door. It used to be when people wanted to make changes, I'd just shut the door. Now the development community has become so large that it doesn't take much before the volume of voices gets pretty loud," he said.