Microsoft aims to lure Java developers to .Net

Microsoft this week will release a test version of a tool to build applications in the Java language that will work with its .Net initiative to deliver software and services over the Internet, the company said Tuesday.

The new technology, dubbed Visual J#.Net, is a Java-language tool designed to allow Java developers to build XML (Extensible Markup Language) Web services and applications that will run exclusively on .Net. The tool, however, is not an implementation of Java and will not allow developers to build Java applications, Microsoft said.

"We're delivering the Java language on the .Net Framework," said Tony Goodhew, a Microsoft product manager. "If you're a developer and like the Java language, you can now go build XML Web services in the context of .Net." In addition to the .Net Framework, those applications will also work with .Net server software, Microsoft .Net My Services (formerly called Hailstorm) and other implementations of the .Net technology, he said.

Details of Visual J#.Net are described in length in a document available on Microsoft's Indiadev Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/india/indiadev/projects/dotnet.htm. It notes that the company is working with an early version of Java to "make it possible for Java language developers to write to the .Net platform in the language of their choice." The company's Indian development group is building the technology.

A download of the beta version of Visual J#.Net will be available on Thursday from Microsoft's Download Center, Goodhew said. The second beta version will be available in the first quarter of 2002.

The beta of Visual J#.Net is intended to be used as an add-on to Visual Studio.Net, Microsoft's application development software suite. That developer kit is scheduled for final release later this year. Two beta versions of that toolkit have already shipped, and the early version of Visual J#.Net will work with the second beta version of Visual Studio.Net, Microsoft said.

The Redmond, Washington, software marker has touted its new technology, called Common Language Runtime (CLR), as a means for developers to create .Net applications using a variety of development languages. CLR supports more than 20 languages, including C++, Perl, Visual Basic and Microsoft's new C# language. It allows developers to write code in those languages from within Visual Studio.Net.

Microsoft announced in January the first tool that allowed developers to port Java applications to .Net. By providing support for Java, Microsoft is making any application written to Version 1.1.4 of Java compatible with .Net. However, applications built in J#.Net won't run on a Java Virtual Machine (JVM), Microsoft notes.

Java's creator, Sun Microsystems Inc., Microsoft's chief rival, expressed skepticism about the idea Tuesday after researching early reports of the announcement. For one, many Java applications rely on a newer version of Java that is more advanced that the version Microsoft is using. Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform, for instance, used widely in the software industry to build database applications, supports Version 1.3.

"As near as we can make out, they're saying that they will release some kind of capability for a Java language program to be supported inside of .Net," said David Harrah, spokesman for Sun's Java group. "The next logical question is, 'will developers go for this'?"

Harrah speculated that the announcement points to some pressure on Microsoft to support Java programmers in its coming plans. According to research by International Data Corp., Java has been growing steadily in popularity among developers.

In January, Microsoft ended a three-year-old legal battle with Sun over Microsoft's licensing of Java. The two companies settled out of court, and Microsoft was ordered to only use only an old version of Java within its software products.

Since then, Microsoft has said it won't include a JVM with its new Internet Explorer Browser or in Windows XP, the new operating system due for wide release on Oct. 25.

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