December 20, 1996 11:00 AM ET
Navigator for Windows 3.1 with Java won't revive OS
By Michael Caton

  Even Java doesn't hold much promise for sustaining 16-bit Windows in corporate applicatons, judging by the performance of Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator for Windows 3.1 with Java support. The newly released Navigator for OS/2 2.02, however, fared better in PC Week Labs' tests.

Ostensibly, the Windows 3.1 version of Navigator would be a good solution for a corporate site looking to deploy a Java application, but unable to upgrade some users beyond 16-bit Windows because of hardware costs.

However, the beta software, which became available for download from Netscape's home page last week (home.netscape.com), showed staggeringly slow performance--even for beta software--in our tests using PC Magazine's JMark 1.01 Java benchmark (download Excel 3.0 benchmark results as a ZIP file).

Furthermore, Windows 3.1's FAT limitations on file names will greatly complicate installation of Java applets on local machines. Deploying applications with long file names will require changing file names and recompiling to account for shorter file names.

The newly released Navigator 2.02 for OS/2, meanwhile, provides a significant performance boost over the beta version we looked at in October. The improvement is the byproduct of two changes: the addition of IBM's latest JDK (Java Development Kit) and integration of Netscape's own beta Java VM, which is currently in beta and being used instead of IBM's Java VM.

Navigator originally used IBM JDK Version 1.01, which comes with OS/2 Warp 4.0, but the latest IBM JDK, Version 1.02, has been improved and includes a JIT (just-in-time) compiler.

In tests, we saw some performance gains when comparing performance of JDK 1.01 against JDK 1.02 using IBM's bundled applet viewer. However, since these gains do not correlate with Navigator's overall performance gains of between 15 percent and 186 percent (depending on tests), the most likely cause for the boost is Netscape's Java VM.

The performance of both OS/2 Java VMs is still considerably slower than Win32s Java VMs, however.

Netscape, of Mountain View, Calif., can be reached at (800) 638-7483 or at home.netscape.com.

Senior Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@zd.com.

Additional reporting by Larry Seltzer, Technical Director for Internet and PC Tech at PC Magazine.

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