When it first arrived on the scene a few years ago, Java was a relatively unknown programming language, designed to create light, fast applets that would run over the Internet. Java's success quickly united the anti- Microsoft forces, who declared that Java would form the centerpiece of an operating system and network computer (NC) strategy that would eventually overthrow the Windows "bloatware" model.

Then something strange happened. Programmers started using Java to write more bloatware.

"The dirty little secret is that Java is being used to build almost Windows-size applications," says David Coursey, host of Internet Showcase in San Diego. Sun Microsystems, the creators of Java, promised so-called "thin clients" that have never been delivered, according to Coursey. "Lots of the applications we're seeing are bigger than we expected a while ago," says Jon Kannegaard, vice president of software products at JavaSoft, Sun's Java unit.

The idea behind the thin client--as seen by executives at Sun, Oracle, and other members of the anti-Microsoft cabal--is that only a small amount of code exists on the client, or user's computer. The majority of code rests on network servers. Preferably Sun network servers and Oracle database servers, by the way. This is essentially the same model that was used with WYSE and other dumb terminals connected to VAX and MVS mainframes. The industry spoke, however, and the market decided long ago that users want all of the power on the desktop. This is the concept behind personal computers like the PC and the Macintosh. So why would Sun, Oracle, and others push thin clients?

They hate Microsoft. And Microsoft dominates the personal computer market in both operating system and applications software sales. As Oracle's Larry Ellison puts it: "There will never be an Information Age if we have to rely on the PC to get us there."

So if Java gets bloated, what's the point? Again, the "anyone but Microsoft" attitude takes over. In the end, it's less about an increasingly irrelevant NC strategy and more about toppling Microsoft at any cost. When all is said and done, that's the real incentive behind Java and so the so-called thin client