Q&A (2): Corel's Cowpland wants Java everywhere

What about hardware and the 'video-enabled network computer' you've talked about recently?
Written by Martin Veitch, Contributor

The VNC is a [Motorola Power 821-based] 100MHz Pentium equivalent with 16Mb RAM. It's about the size of a paperback book and uses the same plastic as our camera so we haven't got any more tooling. It's a really neat design by Frog. It will be in production in January. We'll subcontract the board assembly and final assembly will be done by [an agent]. We'll sell it with or without a camera. It'll cost about $700 and target everyone from corporate users to home users. Senior executives might have this on their desk. They're interested in creating graphics, video and e-mail, and this is ideal. We think we can produce thousands of VNC devices very quickly. We could do 30,000 next year.

And the handheld Java terminal you have also talked about?

We think the biggest opportunity is in the VNC. The handheld is attractive but we think it's a bit risky with all the Windows CE units now, and US Robotics having done a good job with the Pilot out there. Only 15 per cent of all computers sold are portable.

Is the hardware initiative more about selling Java software?

It's a way to encapsulate all the software we do. NCs are coming out but they don't have all the hooks we wanted, especially for video. For instance, we wanted to have 16Mb of RAM so we did it ... RAM is cheap right now. The price difference is caused by the Intel monopoly. An Intel chip costs $200-600 whereas you can buy a RISC chip for $20. The RISC vendors are cheap and they're in intense competition with each other.

This breaks the Microsoft-Intel duopoly. We position ourselves on the side of open Internet standards; Microsoft is proprietary. We'll have groupware that's compatible with Netscape Communicator. Our file formats for versions 6, 7 and 8 of our suite are all compatible. Microsoft changes theirs. Their suite won't output Java. Java is secure, ActiveX isn't.

How do you see the development of Java against Windows-based PCs?

It won't be happening overnight. Initially, there will be new applications for Java and incremental growth on the side but that will begin to erode sideways [into Windows]. The differences between Java and Windows will be less and less. Most people are on the side of the open Internet. It's moving so fast it's hard to tell. Who would have thought a year ago that Java would be where it is today? With Netscape and Sun, we're the three who control Java, which is good because we can stop them going off left field.

People may not upgrade quickly to Office 97, just as they didn't with Windows 95. There's the same hesitancy and the same confusion with file formats.

But you're asking companies to change as well...

Either way it's a transition but at least our way they're moving to an open standard.

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