Ms. Polese called the brainstorming meeting at Sun Microsystems to ponder a cooler name for the product she bet would be "waking up the Web." And so staid Oak became Java, a programming language that makes it easier to add multimedia and interactive features to the World Wide Web.
Since its May 1995 launch, Java has been adopted as a standard by virtually every major industry player, including Microsoft Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., IBM Corp. and Apple Computer.
In technology, buyers and developers like a product with momentum. Java, with its cool cup o' joe logo, has that buzz.
When Ms. Polese joined the product team in 1993, Sun was developing Oak for the interactive TV market, then at the height of hype. The technology didn't take off, but Ms. Polese and a colleague, noting the growth in online services and glimpsing opportunity on the emerging Internet, wrote a business plan to reposition Oak for the online world.
When the Internet took off, Java was primed.
The marketing strategy is a giveaway: Sun puts the program out free for developers to check out, and companies that want to employ Java may either license it or simply download the code from the Web. Most see the marketing advantages in being licensees.
With no money for advertising, Java had to rely on word of mouth. Ms. Polese had an unexpected ally: Windows 95. Microsoft paranoia was so strong, she says, that developers were searching for alternatives.
Software developers are using Java today to give Web pages animation, graphics and real-time data. Java has great potential for business computer growth. Nokia, the phone maker, plans to build in Java software.
Ms. Polese, who was Java product manager, is so sold she left Sun in February to form Marimba Inc., one of numerous startups developing software to work with Java.
"Java," Ms. Polese says, "is this platform that is just waiting to be built upon."