Write Once, Run Scared

Summary:(10/10/97) -- Java developers around the world are crying foul. Some feel that little more than a year after Microsoft proclaimed its intention to support Java actively, the company has done an about-face, leaving broken spirits and enraged activists in its wake.

(10/10/97) -- Java developers around the world are crying foul. Some feel that little more than a year after Microsoft proclaimed its intention to support Java actively, the company has done an about-face, leaving broken spirits and enraged activists in its wake.

Critics contend that Microsoft has implemented only modest support for the new technology, to steer application developers toward its Windows platforms and Internet Explorer 4.0. In their opinion, by not including certain Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.1 components in its wares, Microsoft is intentionally compromising Java's portability, thus diminishing compatibility between platforms and products. Two such components--Java Native Message Interface (JNI) and Remote Method Invocation (RMI)--are missing from Internet Explorer 4.0.

This move represents a betrayal of epic proportions, say organizers of Java Lobby, a group of 6,900 Java developers and supporters. Says Java Lobby founder Rick Ross, "As developers, we listened to Microsoft last spring when it said it was supporting Java. Now what's abundantly clear is that developers who listened feel betrayed. The Information Highway is turning into Bill Gates' toll road."

Sun's legal effort to remedy the situation is a positive first step, Ross notes. "Sun is protecting Java portability. Without question the Java developer community is behind Sun and its efforts." He adds, "The problem is that the top officials at Microsoft are disconnected from the day-in-and-day out realities of developers. They've lost their vision."

A Personal Vendetta? But that doesn't mean Java Lobby is happy about the debate over Java. According to Ross, "It's focused entirely too much on the personal battle between Gates and McNealy. The argument between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems is diminishing the successes and failures of Java." As an example of one of Java's successes, Ross points to the recent release of a pure Java spreadsheet program from Applix, which he says fully lives up to the "write once, run anywhere" mantra.

Although Ross expects to see a "debilitating battle," he believes that Microsoft won't succeed in its efforts to stymie Java. "Pplenty of programs from vendors such as Sun and Symantec enable portability between Windows and Java."

Topics: Microsoft, Software

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