|| What is holding up Sun's much-hyped technology?
By Stephen Shankland
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
March 15, 2000, 4:00 a.m. PT
The age of the Internet dishwasher was upon us.
That, at least, is what Sun Microsystems promised last year with the
introduction of its Jini software.
The next-generation technology was supposed to create a new world of network-connected
devices--videocameras, DVD players, lamps and coffee makers--that would be
"on the market within 1999."
But the ambitious timetable for the futuristic technology turned out to be
more fiction than science. Although companies are beginning to work Jini
into their plans, no major products have hit the market in the year since
the software was trumpeted.
Once connected, a Jini device automatically broadcasts what it can do and how it works--a fundamental difference from the way networks operate today. Devices can then link themselves and take advantage of each other's abilities, bypassing the need for a person to inform all the affected components.
"The hype is way ahead of the
market," International Data Corp.
analyst Kevin Hause said. "Sun is definitely moving in the right direction with it, but it's going to be a long process."
The way Jini has been handled is a classic example of the product-marketing
cycles that drive much of today's high-tech industry. To satisfy the
relentless demands of competition and Wall Street, companies often hype
their products far before a market for them has been created--and sometimes
with little knowledge about how their technology will ultimately be used,
if at all.
Some analysts defend the early marketing blitzes, pointing to the need to
create a buzz that will inspire other companies to make plans to adopt
these technologies. Sun, in particular, has an incentive to maintain
industry confidence and momentum because its old nemesis Microsoft and
others are pushing aggressively ahead with competing software.
The risks are high. Jini has put Sun's reputation on the line as the
company strives to become as pervasive on the Internet as Microsoft has
been with the personal computer. And the initiative will test what lessons Sun has learned in its epic battles with the Redmond empire, from laboratory to courtroom.
The company's grand plan is to ride Jini and its companion Java software from Sun's bastion in corporate servers to the wide-open territory of networked electronics. Now, it must deliver.
The promise: A wired household
If consumers adopt the idea of networked devices in the home, Jini
could give Sun the edge in selling servers used to connect everything from
ovens to CD players.
The reality: Bumps in the road map
While technologically sound, Jini is at the stage comparable to
having fax machines but no phone lines, analysts say.
The future: What Sun must do to rise
Once again, Sun has seen the future--and once again, Microsoft is
waiting for it on the horizon.
Go to: The promise: A wired household
| Technology timeline |
Sun has tried to keep Jini in the limelight at key events.
| Jini launch, 1/99 |
Demonstration of printer, hard disk and digital cameras connected to a laptop
| Japan Electronics Show, 4/99 |
Demo of the server-side use of Jini with BizTone's enterprise resource management software accessed over the Internet from the BizTone server in Malaysia
| JavaOne, 6/99 |
Demo of Jini to control a light switch
Demo of PalmPilots used to control Lego tanks
Demo of a Jini-enabled Epson printer
| LonWorld, 10/99 |
Demo of a bridge between Jini and Echelon's LonWorks method of controlling lights and other household devices
| Telecom, 10/99 |
Demo of Jini to control lights and a CD player with a mobile phone
Demo of a sub-PC electronic book to fetch and print email
| JavaBusiness, 12/99 |
Demo of Jini devices and software services to read email and print to a Jini printer
| Consumer Electronics Show 2000, 1/00 |
Demo of Jini to link a dishwasher, bar code reader and WebPad with radio-
frequency networking to a special computer acting as a gateway to the Internet