Here are some excerpts on the subject that I produced for our company on the subject. They include some randomn quotes from newsgroups. The only thing I would add to it is, that as I understand it, the deficiency is with Windows XP (not the browsers) ie. the java runtime environment normally came bundled with the Win98 system and such like, rather than the browser per see. Also, it seems that Sun is just as guilty as Microsoft on this one.
Windows XP is now for sale, and IE6, which will come bundled with this, is now available for beta testing):
"..the terms of settlement between Microsoft and Sun
do not allow MS to include a JRE with future versions of Internet
Explorer(i.e., MSN Explorer and Internet Explorer 6). As far as I can tell
by next year the only browser with built-in Java support will be Netscape
(Mozilla, Opera and the text-based browsers don't appear to support Java...
....As you can probably guess, this means the usefulness of a Java based
client is probably going to be limited in the future...."
Or see the following: http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2678702,00.html
The only resolution to this kind of problem is for the enduser to download a plug-in Java Runtime Environment (jre) which would allow the applet to run properly. Actually, there is a suggestion that IE6 will auto-prompt to download an entire jre when encountering java sites. Given the popularity of Flash maybe this isn't a big deal.
If we go ahead and build applets into the various websites, then in the near future (as Windows XP (with IE6) starts leasing) we will be faced with the prospect that some users may not be able to properly interact with our websites, and for some of them, a plug-in will be an unnacceptable download on dial-up connections.