"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 11 December 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.




Charmingly bad network TV will

end a season in that borrowed

device from Depression-era

cinema, the cliffhanger, leaving

you on the edge of your seat as

the credits roll and you wonder

how the writers will manage to

get your heroes out of the

seemingly no-win situation

they're left in until next

season. The secret, of course,

is that the writers don't have a

clue as to what happens next;

they'll worry about that when

the contract gets renewed. We

shouldn't have been surprised,

then, when the same stunt was

pulled last week in our favorite

ongoing serial, "The Marc and

Jim Show".



Most of the action took place at

the WebInnovation conference, a

dubious event designed to

extract a "fat g" from overpaid

webmasters and industry

wannabes. We had hoped to ignore

the event, since conventional

wisdom says that anything of

importance would have happened

at Comdex, as the so-called

movers and shakers of the biz

head out for ski vacations or

bask in the tropical sun. But it

soon became apparent that our

friends at Sun, Netscape,

Macromedia, and SGI had decided

to sponsor a Christmas special,

the draw being the identity of

the mystery guest star...



Faithful Suck readers will fondly

recall our rant against

Macromedia's Shockwave. It was

with no surprise that we saw our

worst fears realized in a

multimedia nightmare before

Christmas as a hundred

Shockwave-powered sights went

online. Among the Shockwave

"Vanguard" were such

cutting-edge favorites as

Melrose Place and c|net. (And we

simply love that the Vanguard

page crashes our copy of

Netscape every time we visit -

talk about getting Shocked.)

More promising is SGI's new

Java-based Cosmo multimedia

system. There's no love lost

between Sun and SGI, Sun execs

being known for making

unflattering comments about SGI

as the last of the minicomputer

manufacturers, so SGI's Java

license is a bit of a surprise,

as is the partnering between

SGI, Sun, and Macromedia to

create a few APIs. We hope

there's lots of room in the



[BASIC Bill]

Meanwhile, Netscape took a

preemptive shot at Microsoft

with the announcement of

JavaScript, the renamed and

rehyped version of Netscape's

still-unfinished LiveScript

scripting language. LiveScript,

of course, was originally called

JavaScript, until Sun forced Netscape

to change the name, most likely

because it had remarkably little

in common with Java. Sun's

better judgment was undoubtedly

swayed by a hefty payoff from

the Netscape coffers - the cheap

decaffeinated brand didn't seem

to have as bitter an aftertaste

once Sun could afford a little

nondairy creamer. The JavaScript

announcement can be seen as being

aimed directly at Bill "Java is

here to overthrow what we've

done" Gates, who is well known

to dislike all languages not

spelled B-A-S-I-C, and preceded

with a "Microsoft" and a

"Visual". While industry

analysts were hailing the

decisive blow against Microsoft,

those in the know were

questioning the wisdom of

embedding scripts within HTML



[MS Visual Java]

Things haven't been looking good

for Microsoft, despite the

ability of their MSIE

development team to toss out

a lot of Spyglass code to

fashion a half-decent

"Netscape-compatible" browser -

which is how Explorer advertises

itself to servers to get all the

Netscape goodies, including

those server pushes Explorer

doesn't know what to do with

(besides put up a broken image

icon). The big announcement by

Microsoft of Visual Basic

Script was a running gag well

before the planned Pearl Harbor

Day press "workshop", despite

(or perhaps because of)

endorsement by key players such

as Oracle. We imagine fearful

Microsoft execs whispering among

themselves that the scene was

the bunker all over again.

Microsoft decided to follow the

old adage that if you're being

run out of town, wave a baton

and make it look like a parade.

The denouement came late in the

day on Thursday, when Microsoft

announced that it had licensed

Java, after the company had

already outlined a non-Java

"Internet Strategy" to press and



Netscape was clearly caught with

its pants down by Microsoft's

surprise move. It's been a while

since Gates has been backed into

a corner, and Netscape was

counting on Microsoft being

unwilling to hedge his bet on

Visual Basic. Netscape's blood

was spilled on Wall Street, as

their stock took a hit. Not

enough to permanently scar them,

but a reminder that the game is

played for keeps.


[Duke Calls It]

The obvious winner by the end of

the week was Sun, who has both

Microsoft and Netscape eating

out of its hand. Sun now has two

challenges to face with Java.

The first is scaling its efforts

in order to deliver on all the

promises of a true

cross-platform programming

language without losing

momentum. Rather than

finger-pointing at failed Unix

consortiums, we'll trust that

Sun learned its lessons the

first, second, and third times

around, and will somehow avoid

the inevitable. More difficult

will be managing the friction

that's sure to occur between it

and Netscape, which has taken

much of the credit for Java's

success and has, up to now,

treated Sun like a sidekick.



Not that we expect Netscape to

take our advice, but our counsel

would be to take a deep breath

and not panic. Sure, if

Microsoft isn't going after your

browser market, it's trying to

raid the corporate coffers by

breaking in via the BackOffice

with its NT-based Web server,

with obvious eyes towards that

intranet market that drives a

good portion of your revenues.

Then shed some of the ego, roll

up your sleeves, and deliver a

bug-free 2.0. Or at least

announce a ship date. Try to

deliver Java support on the Mac

before Microsoft does. By the

way, did you notice that

Explorer is really free, versus

Navigator being kinda free?

Yeah, we did too.


[MacWorld Expo]

One last point about the Mac -

since we're being presumptive

enough to help write others' New

Year's resolutions for them,

we'd like to make a suggestion

to Apple, which has been

conspicuously absent from the

fray. Word on the street is

that Apple will introduce more

net products at MacWorld Expo

next month. If a Java license

isn't in the mix, don't bother.

courtesy of Strep Throat