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MICROSOFT AND JAVA – DOES IT AIM TO SUPPLEMENT OR SUPPLANT?

Microsoft Corp has begun writing some of its own software in Java, using a set of internally written Java components it claims outshine JavaSoft’s AWT Abstract Windows Toolkit and Netscape Communications Corp’s IFC Internet Foundation Classes. Microsoft last week confirmed, to ClieNT Server News, that it’s writing applications in Java, but refused to identify which and would only say that it isn’t Office. They are more likely to be pieces of applications built with its own new AFC Application Foundation Class of Java libraries. AFC will be given away to Java developers and licensed to tools vendors. Borland International Inc and Metrowerks Inc have already bought licenses to include AFC in their respective Java kits, J Builder and Code Warrior. Microsoft says it’s negotiating with other tools vendors, though Netscape points out that Microsoft hasn’t been able to land Symantec Corp and its Visual Cafe product, which is IFC-bound. An AFC beta version will be posted for public consumption along with the Internet Explorer 4.0 beta version, due out by the end of March. Also coming with Internet Explorer 4.0 is a reworked MVM Microsoft Virtual Machine for Java that supports Java Beans. In just over a month, Microsoft has managed to come up with a method to map Beans event-firing to ActiveX, according to Microsoft program manager Charles Fitzgerald. JavaSoft Inc is almost ready with its ownversion of a Beans-to- ActiveX bridge that should be ready for a first look any time now, and for release by the end of the quarter, according to JavaSoft’s Java Beans program manager Gina Centoni. The two competing Beans-to-ActiveX bridges dramatize the distrust that exists between Microsoft and the anti-Microsoft forces that invented Java and Java Beans technology.

Microsoft may corrupt Beans

Centoni thinks many developers fear that without something like JavaSoft’s bridge to keep Microsoft honest, Microsoft may find a way to corrupt Beans technology into something that is Windows- specific. Despite being annoyed that it wasn’t initially asked to join the Beans support camp, or even given the courtesy of a briefing before Beans was announced, Microsoft grudgingly agreed to interoperate with Beans shortly after the technology was unveiled last May. But by Comdex, the company was making noises as though it was going to put Beans on hold. Fitzgerald insists that this was because Microsoft had still not got the Beans code. Meanwhile, the AFC libraries pose another threat to JavaSoft. In its initial incarnation Microsoft insists AFC runs on top of JavaSoft’s AWT rather than replacing it. Centoni, however, is afraid AFC may eventually supplant AWT. It depends on how we respond, she said last week, clearly taken by surprise by Microsoft’s unveiling AFC to a group of 80 carefully chosen Java software vendors at a hastily planned AFC design preview. The big fear that JavaSoft and others in the Java community have is that if AFC dominates the Java market it will migrate into a set of tools optimized for Windows. AFC is now an operating system-neutral set of 40 or so controls and what Fitzgerald calls methods, all written in Java, to build user interfaces, add multimedia and support graphics in Java applets. Included are things like toolbar, tree and list controls. Those are all things that don’t exist in Java, said Fitzgerald. Besides supporting AFC and Beans, the new MVM for Java that will beta along with AFC will include a list of tweaks, fixes and new features like a new capabilities-based security model, better compression, Unicode support and support for JavaSoft’s forthcoming JDK Java Development Kit 1.1. In a typical caveat, Fitzgerald said JDK 1.1 support and/or the Beans bridge could be deleted from MVM at the last minute if it turns out JavaSoft’s code is buggy or if the Beans or JDK 1.1 programs slide. Centoni insists that neither is likely, predictably promising solid versions of both Beans and JDK 1.1 and adding that either or both could ship to initial customers in another two or three weeks, and by the end of February at the very latest.

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CBR Staff Writer

CBR Online legacy content.