With everything that's going on, it's hard to keep track of what's available now, what's promised, and what has been around for some time. Here's a road map that imposes some order on Java's past, present, and future.
Java 1.0 provided the basic framework for Java development: the language itself plus packages that let you write applets and simple applications. Although Java 1.0 is officially obsolete, it will be some time before vendors catch up with the new release.
Java 1.1 is the current version of Java. It incorporates major improvements in the AWT package (Java's window facility). It also adds many completely new features, including:
A general facility for interacting with databases.
Remote Method Invocation: a facility that lets you call methods that are provided by a server running somewhere else on the network.
Java's component architecture, which we discussed earlier.
A facility for cryptography; this is the basis for signed classes, which we discussed earlier.
The ability to write programs that adapt themselves to the language the user wants to use; the program automatically displays text in the appropriate language.
Java 1.1 incorporates many other improvements and new features, but these are the most important. As of May 1997, most Web browsers haven't yet incorporated Java 1.1, but they will as soon as possible. In this book, we'll try to give you a taste of as many features as possible; unfortunately for us, the Java environment has become so rich that it's impossible to cover everything in a single book.
We've mentioned a few of the things that are in the pipeline, including high quality audio, advanced 3D rendering, and speech synthesis. Other things to look forward to are class libraries for advanced 2D graphics (Java 2D), electronic commerce (JECF), managing network devices (Java Management), naming and directory services (JNDI), telephony (JTAPI), and writing network servers (Java Server). Beta versions of some of these facilities are available now.
We're also starting to see new kinds of computing devices that incorporate Java. Network computers that are based on Java and use the HotJava browser as their user interface are already available, as are "smart cards": credit card-like devices with a built-in Java processor. You can expect to see Java incorporated into PDAs, telephones, and many other devices.