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December 1, 1998

CROSS PLATFORM JAVA “DOESN’T WORK” SAYS MICROSOFT

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft Corp fought back in advance of the antitrust testimony of government witness, Java author James Gosling today, by telling the press that Java has failed to deliver on Sun’s promises of cross-platform application support. Java hype has reached utopian proportions, said Charles Fitzgerald, group product manager at Microsoft, speaking prior to court sessions in Washington yesterday. Write-once-run anywhere is a compelling message, but it doesn’t work as advertized. According to Fitzgerald, even Gosling will talk in court of a vision, a promise [for Java], but not a reality. In his written testimony, Gosling does admit that Java technology is still in the process of maturing. Microsoft, while continuing to maintain that its own Java technology offers the best cross-platform compatibility in the business also says that the performance trade-offs and lowest common denominator approach make it essential for it to support platform specific – that is Windows specific – Java as its main focus. Are we supposed to stop the industry for two years to let Sun catch up? asked Fitzgerald. He claimed that the developer community had quickly realized that 100% Java solutions have significant limitations and cited three major Java projects – Netscape’s Java browser, Corel Corp’s Java office software and Oracle Corp’s Hat Trick Java front-end applications project – as expensive failures that had to be abandoned. Addressing specific complaints to be raised by Gosling in his testimony, Microsoft says that Sun has refused to make its compatibility tests public, so that people can see how it compares to other products. Microsoft believes that Sun has imposed a significantly higher standard on Microsoft than on other companies, and that even Sun’s own Java products aren’t all 100% Java compatible. And it says that the recent court case filed by Sun in San Jose wasn’t about cross-platform compatibility at all, but about how best to access native Windows calls. Sun’s preferred method for this, endorsed by other Java supporters, is the Java Native Interface, its mechanism for writing platform specific applications. In his written testimony, Gosling states that JNI acts as the link between the Java Virtual Machine and platform-specific code which developers will occasionally need to use in order to access functionality not yet supported in the Java technology, but which may be supported in the underlying operating system or hardware. Microsoft says that JNI breaks cross-platform capabilities in any case, and so it implemented its J/Direct interface as a Windows-optimized alternative, as well as its other proprietary interfaces, RNI and @COM. The temporary injunction won by Sun during its San Jose court case last month now requires Microsoft to also support JNI. But Sun dropped similar claims over Microsoft’s lack of support for the RMI remote method invocation, Microsoft declares, although Gosling says that lack of RMI support will be another reason why cross-platform Java applications might fail on Microsoft platforms. Microsoft says it’s ridiculous to claim that the Java dispute is an antitrust matter, and that Java technology is being prevented from reaching developers and consumers. Sun regularly boasts of over 150 commercial licensees of Java, 1.5 million downloads of Java technology by developers and over 70 million end-users. Given the widespread availability of products that distribute Sun’s Java technology, its relative lack of success in the marketplace cannot be blamed on Microsoft it says. á

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