Microsoft JUMPs for Java

A beta version of a tool that converts Java applications into Microsoft Corp.'s new programming language for building .Net applications was released Tuesday.

The latest release in Microsoft's JUMP to .Net strategy aims to lure Java developers to Microsoft's new Web-based computing architecture, which is centered around its own programming languages. JUMP stands for Java User Migration Path.

Used with Microsoft's forthcoming developer software, Visual Studio .Net, the Java Language Conversion Assistant (JLCA) will automatically convert basic Java source code into C# (C-sharp), Microsoft's new language developed specifically for .Net. The JLCA is intended to turn a basic Java application or a JSP (Java Server Page) into an application capable of being hosted on a Microsoft server rather than a Java-based server.

"There are a large number of our customers utilizing Java technology that are rewriting applications to take advantage of the .Net Framework," said Tony Goodhew, product manager with Microsoft's .Net tools division. "In a mechanical sense, the JLCA can do most of the work."

Initially, the conversion tool will automate most of the process involved with converting Java source code into C#. The tool produces a report detailing the conversion process and lists all of the parts of an application that could not be converted automatically. For those portions that can't be completed with the JLCA, the report offers instructions on how to finish the conversion manually, Goodhew said.

An enterprise version of the JLCA tool is also being developed by software migration tool maker ArtinSoft SA, a Microsoft partner based in San Pedro, Costa Rica. The enterprise version of the JLCA will allow developers to convert more advanced Java applications such as those designed around EJBs (Enterprise JavaBeans) into C#.

"Their tool is a super-set of the tool that Microsoft is providing," Goodhew said. "It will take the full range of software written in Java over to the .Net Framework."

The JUMP to .Net effort was first announced in January 2001 and saw its first product released last October with Visual J# .Net, a Java language tool that will be one of more than 20 programming languages supported in the .Net Framework. Currently in beta testing, Visual J# .Net will be included in Visual Studio .Net later this year, Goodhew said.

One of Microsoft's early customers, Alibre Inc., has been testing the conversion tool as it brings its mechanical design software over to the .Net platform from Java, according to the company's Chief Technology Officer Steve Emmons. Alibre originally built its application, which features instant messaging and collaboration tools, in Java with the intention of letting users run the program on a computer using a JVM (Java Virtual Machine).

"It was a great strategy for us to rapidly deploy our product to lots of different people at the time," Emmons said. When Sun Microsystems Inc. sued Microsoft over its use of Java, which was created by Sun, Microsoft subsequently abandoned its support of the technology. Emmons said his company decided to follow Microsoft.

"For a while we were somewhat uncertain where Java was going," he said. "This tool together with the overall .Net strategy really seemed like an excellent opportunity for us to move our product into a new market."

Besides Microsoft's new conversion tool, a small software maker based in San Jose, California, has developed a tool that allows Java applications to run natively in the .Net Framework. Halcyon Software Inc. released a beta version of its iNet (Instant .Net) in early January that allows developers to write applications based on Microsoft's .Net technology without converting them out of Java.

The first beta version of the JLCA is available for download on Microsoft's developers Web site at http://www.msdn.com/. A final version is due out midyear and will be a feature in a later version of Visual Studio .Net. The enterprise version of the JLCA will be available in beta midyear from ArtinSoft.

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