In a telling sign of Sun's vision to see the portal become the single user interface for enterprise applications, the company has thrown its support behind Altio's AltioLive.
AltioLive is server-based software platform that delivers an intuitive application presentation and development environment to the browser.
Running in the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) environment, the platform allows drag-and-drop style application building that simplifies the process of developing and deploying typical enterprise applications in a browser using standards-based connectors and XML services.
"Sun knows what XML can do for Java," said Melissa Bane, director of corporate marketing at Altio. "Sun looked at our technology and said, 'You are more XML than you are Java.'"
For Sun, the move is an important part of what the company's chief technology officer, Greg Papadopoulos, described as the ultimate evolution of platform design.
Papadopoulos argued that the corporate computing model is changing from client/server to a world where Web applications and Web services, are integrated using XML. And XML in turn is supported by Web services standards such as Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) and SOAP.
"Developers are moving up the stack now," he said, explaining that developers are now building tools to create a new Web-based application layer that separates the management of business logic from application logic and presentation.
Charles Rutstein, research director at Forrester, agreed that the example offered by Sun and Altio signals a challenge to existing Windows-based application development and deployment. "The only challenge is how to get there," he said.
However, Rutstein said, this development model is currently polarised by the server-based paradigm pushed by platform players and the front-end application driven model.
John Fanelli, Sun's director of product marketing, said: "The portal should act as the e-business hub."
Fanelli said Sun believes that the portal is the best channel for delivering different Web services, rather than the existing Windows-based environment.
"I think this is the next piece of the developer environment," he said.