Microsoft Corp launched its anticipated new Windows-optimized Java development tools yesterday, including the new Windows Foundation Classes, the first technical preview of Visual J++ 6.0, and additional support for its J/Direct application programming interfaces for Java developers targeting Windows. Microsoft also agreed to converge its Java virtual machine with Apple Computer Inc’s equivalent, unifying the two Javas for Macintosh users. The Windows Foundation Classes, developed under the leadership of Anders Hejlsberg, who was one of the key developers of Borland International Inc’s Delphi before he joined Microsoft, is a set of Java class libraries for developers who want to go beyond what Microsoft calls Java’s diluted, lowest- common denominator cross-platform approach and specifically target Windows, in order to build feature-rich, native applications [that take] full advantage of the Windows platform. That means, of course, sacrificing portability, one of Java’s key attributes and the subject of current legal tussles between Microsoft and Java’s parent, Sun Microsystems Inc. WFC is a set of Java class libraries that encapsulate Win32 and HTML or Dynamic HTML, providing the same model for applications that run standalone, in a browser on the client, or on the server. Developers can supplement the pre-built classes and components with others that support the Microsoft COM Component Object Model. Microsoft argues that more than 90% of all Java development already takes place on the Win32 platform, and claims that more than half of all Java developers it’s talked to have been calling for native functionality. WFC uses the J/Direct APIs to give it fast access Win32, and there are data access classes for client, server and mobile applications. A preview release is out immediately as part of the simultaneously announced Visual J++ 6.0 Technology Preview 1 development tool, but they will also ship with tools from other vendors: Compuware Corp’s Numega Technologies Inc, Fujitsu Software Corp, Intel Corp, Metrowerks Inc, Rational Software Corp, Sybase Inc and Tower Technology Inc have all committed to use the libraries within their development tools.
Extensions to Java
In an interview given to the developer.com Web site, Hejlesberg identified the controversial two new key words added to Java (CI No 3,363) as the delegate and multicast features, which he claimed were extensions which can be switched off. He told the site that everything done with the WFCs is compatible with Microsoft’s license with Sun to use Java, and said that aside from simplifying the programming model we don’t try to gratuitously change the underlying concepts. But WFC components are not compatible with Sun’s JavaBeans components unless an ActiveX gate is used. WFC also competes with Sun’s own Java Foundation Classes version 1.1, code-named Swing, only launched last week (CI No 3,358). As well as WFC, the new version of Visual J++ has an updated and customizable development environment with two-way visual design tools, cross language and remote debugging facilities, scalable data access and one button application deployment. The new version also includes two key word additions to Java – conditional compilation and conditional methods – through the Visual J++ compiler, Hejlesberg said in the interview. Visual J++ 6.0 is available for download at no charge from Microsoft’s Web site, and current licensees will receive attractive upgrade pricing once the final version is released later this year. Microsoft plans a Visual J++ conference in Los Angeles between April 27-30th. Meanwhile, Microsoft got together with its former enemy, Apple Computer Inc, and agreed to use Apple’s MRJ Mac OS Runtime for Java as the basis for a unified virtual machine for the Macintosh. Microsoft will incorporate a variety of its own Java technologies into Apple’s version, and will license aspects of J/Direct to Apple for incorporation into MRJ, now on version 2.0.