Netscape puts Javagator "on hold"

As expected, Netscape has put plans for its 100% Pure Java version of Navigator, dubbed "Javagator", "on hold". The company is hoping that an industry heavyweight with lots of cash--such as Sun or IBM--will finance the project or simply take it off their hands.

"We are trying to gauge the interest in helping us work on the technology from companies that are making NCs," said Jim Hamerly, a VP of the client product division at Netscape. "We are looking to some of our partners to help on the marketing and development side and are trying to see how NCs are moving forward in 1998."

Javagator was aimed squarely at NCs, which will typically run a thin client operating system such as a JavaOS. Such NCs, however, are more than rare; despite a heavy push over the past few years by companies such as Oracle, few NCs are actually shipping. Meanwhile, PC prices have plummeted, making the market for these boxes smaller than ever.

Netscape also halted development of its next-generation HTML/Java rendering engine, which was dubbed "Gemini." Originally, Gemini was intended as the new HTML rendering engine for Communicator 5.0 and Javagator. Also, the company hoped that third parties would license the code and embed it in their own applications, as they can with Microsoft Internet Explorer. Netscape has "learned a lot" from Gemini and will use some of its ideas in Communicator, but not written in Java.

Netscape's problems may be indicative of two bigger issues: its own financial difficulties and the very real possibility that current Java technology is not able to create mainstream, fully-functional applications. Not that Netscape sees it that way: when asked whether the cancelled Java plans were the results of financial problems, a company representative said "No comment."

"This is not a setback for Java. It's simply an acknowledgment that we have to be more open and dependent on partners to be successful," Hamerly said

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