Networks '97: MS presence gives UK Java Forum early rumpus

Microsoft's presence at a new forum grouping aimed at expanding the appeal of Java in the UK caused a rumpus at the Networks '97 exhibition yesterday.

10 companies, comprising Microsoft, Sun, Netscape, Oracle, IBM, Lotus, Corel, Borland, Novell and Symantec are backing The Java Forum which will host events, conduct research and publish information regarding Java deployment. The project is led by The Research Group, developer of the Windows NT Forum and Lotus User Group.

However, the presence of Microsoft upset some fellow members of the group. Sam Sethi, UK product PR manager for Netscape, said he was unhappy at Microsoft's inclusion. "My personal stance is that everyone, bar one, agreed to the Java standard. There's only one person on the panel who didn't support it," he said, in a pointed reference to Microsoft Internet platforms product manager Jeremy Gittins. "Microsoft only joined to find out more about the enemy. My fear is that Microsoft will try to hijack the Forum. We want to send out a unified message about Java and Microsoft should not be a member of this Forum. Their strategy is to split Java. You'll get a Forum view and a Microsoft view."

Sethi also claimed that the only backers of Microsoft's inclusion in the group were chairman Simon Moores and Sun Microsystems.

After announcing its J/Direct technology that gives Java developers access to Win 32 APIs last week, Microsoft has garnered more suspicion than ever regarding its motives. While Microsoft claims that the move was purely to do with giving Java coders access to more Windows calls, opponents say the move is evidence of its desire to 'break' the 100% Pure Java initiative by encouraging developers to write Java code that only runs on Microsoft operating systems.

Microsoft's Gittins said that "Microsoft is 100 per cent committed to Java" and claimed that J/Direct was simply a way of providing more Windows functionality to Java developers.

Gittins also found an unlikely ally in Simon Phipps, programme manager for IBM's Java Technology Centre in Hursley Park, Winchester. Phipps, a confessed critic of Microsoft's Java tack, said he welcomed Microsoft's presence on the panel.

"I'm very pleased they are there," Phipps said. "Having Microsoft there shows it's not a partisan group. In six months Microsoft will realise that the place for Java is not in developing Windows-only programs but in not having to worry about what platforms your code will run on."

The Java Forum can be contacted by telephone on 01753-842728.

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