(I would probably have sent this to the uk-nextstep-users list, but the admins of this list recently changed it, without consultation, to refuse email from non-subscriber addresses, which means only my home address can send to it)

WebObjects is now available free for the download from http://www.next.com. The new package will be a free base layer, runnable on NeXTSTEP, Solaris and NT. This will run scripts written by users, but not permit DO, EOF, or compiled code.

WebObjects Pro will cost $3,000 per server processor, and will include DO, and allow you to compile code.

WebObjects Enterprise adds in EOF for $25,000.

Most everything else is as discussed many times before. NeXT will now support Java, a change from the Wired interview with Steve Jobs.

If you look at most Web sites, the majority of pages are static, with some dynamic pages built using CGI scripts, or the various SQL addin modules. However, many static pages could be improved with a little code reuse. For example, groups of pages may have common footers, all with related imagemaps on them; or thumbnail gifs on a page may be clickable to show a high res image in a standard page format.

The SQL addins (that some people are surrently using to develop dynamic web sites) involve writing all of your business logic, in a form tied to the database schema in use, and embedding the code directly in the user interface (html pages). This isn't exactly attractive for a developer. You lose reuse, it doesn't scale well, and doesn't permit you to use any consistent development methodology. CGI scripts in Perl are similarly unmaintainable, and CGI has a hefty process overhead.

WebObjects let you write code in WebScript (loosely ObjC derived, an interpreted language), or JavaScript (which is a server side implementation of Java), or various other languages, including C, C++ and ObjC (for the last three you need WO Pro to link with the server).

Any WO bundle will include a mapping definitions file, a set of html using some custom tags, and the script file used to generate the code. WO manages information about session state, which means that you can track back along a conversation with a single user. A lot of the simple stuff mentioned above (thumbnails and footers) can be done in the definitions mapping file, with no code required.

It also seems that custom UI objects can be created, and the resultant UI put together in an IB kind of way (I haven't seen this part of the demo yet). Examples given included a radio matrix object, a calendar UI object, and a dictionary table object. All of these examples, and many more, are on NeXTs web site.

The basic, free, WebObjects they believe could be used on any Web site, and would be of value immediately; I would certainly use it. I personally believe that they have the EOF version too highly priced for the vast majority of projects that could use it. I would rather that they swapped DO out of the $3,000 package, and replaced it with EOF; this would more accurately reflect the usability and desirability of the packages.

Most NeXT people I spoke to were saying that they thought they needed a lot of leverage from third parties to really make their numbers this year. I appreciated hearing these sentiments from NeXT USA, although the truth remains to be proven. This is also a dramatically opposing story to what I hear from NeXT UK in recent months.

This is in addition to the email sent yesterday, covering the Steve Jobs keynote specifically, which I missed yesterday.

Firstly, a quick note about the crowd. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts theatre holds about 750 people; it wasn't full, but probably 80% or better on the first day. There were also an unknown number of people in overflow seating. I therefore guess that the total attendance was about 1,500 people. On the first day, a high proportion of the crowd was NeXT partners and existing customers; on the second day, all unknowns, small sites and web designer companies. This latter I found quite intriguing.

According to Steve, the history of the web to date has been Act I, focusing on browser development and static publishing. Browsers are being updated to give them a greater UI capability, until they are much closer in ability to the GUI that they run within. Part of this development is the creation of Netscape plug ins, and Java, both extending the functionaility of the browser.

Act II is the server, and dynamic web services. Examples of dynamic services include the FedEx parcel tracking system, and WebCrawler. This area is that targeted by WebObjects. WebObjects uses a scripting language to provide dynamic creation of pages.

After that introduction, we get the Dodge cars demo that is available on NeXT's web site (and has been for some time). This is apparently using the basic WebObjects product, and uses flat files only for data storage. This lets you select by various criteria models of car, and then choose and price out options for selected model.

WebObjects Pro allows us to integrate our own objects into the server, with a gain in performance from offering compiled code rather than interpreted.

The next version is WebObjects Enterprise, which is just the previous version with Enterprise Objects included.

WebObjects works with all browsers and all servers; it is available for Solaris, NT and NeXTSTEP. Future version will support other platforms, including HP and Digital.

WebObjects will use both Java Script (from Netscape) and compiled Java (from Sun) when they become available. Currently scripts can be written in WebScript, although this will be replaced by Java Script, probably in Q4 '96. For WebObjects Pro, you can write in C (or anything that uses a C linkage, including C, C++ and Objective C). This will migrate to compiled Java in the same time frame.

The beta of WebObjects is available now. A production release will be available at the end of March.

WebObjects is FREE.

WebObjects Pro will cost $2,999, and adds the ability to write custom objects and use Distributed Objects. WebObjects Enterprise adds data base support (EOF), and costs $24,999.

NeXT have a web consulting group of 40. There are six users in the Fortune 50 (note 50, not 500), and ten current users of WO. These include Merrill-Lynch, Motorola, DreamWorks and FannieMae.

At this point, we get the OAG (airline bookings) demo. This provides a web front end to a 3270 application, and was written in two weeks, most of which was spent getting 3270Builder to work (Scott Opitz from Connextions says: "The comment by Steve that the 3270Builder component took 2 weeks whereas the WebObjects portion took only a couple of days was in fact pretty much the opposite of what actually occured. The 3270Builder part of the project only took about 2-3 days by even the most conservative estimates."). The demo include a number of clickable widgets for selecting options, and a small animation from a Java applet. At the end of the demo, Steve phones United booking information (apparently live) to confirm that his booking was really made.

To wrap up, Steve gives us five points: