Microsoft says farewell to Java

While the company is proclaiming all programming languages are equal, it is leaving .Net Java support to Rational Software
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

When Microsoft delivers an alpha version of its Visual Studio.Net tool suite to attendees of its Professional Developers Conference here Wednesday, one language will be sorely missing: Java. The omission of J++ was expected by many, as Microsoft continues to battle Java creator Sun Microsystems in court over Microsoft's right to extend Microsoft's J++ implementation of Java for Windows.

Sun sued Microsoft in 1997 over Microsoft's Java licence, and specifically, over the necessity for Microsoft to remain in lockstep compatibility with Sun's Java. Prior to this week, whenever Microsoft officials were asked whether or not Microsoft's legal problems would cause it to shy away from Java, they kept mum.

Microsoft officials claimed repeatedly Tuesday that the sole reason they are not including J++ in Visual Studio.Net is uncertainty regarding the implication of the Java suit.

Until Tuesday, Microsoft management declined to confirm or deny whether Microsoft would feature an updated version of J++ alongside its other Visual Studio tools -- Visual Basic, Visual C++, JScript and Microsoft's recently introduced C# (pronounced "C Sharp") languages -- when it shipped Visual Studio 7, or as it is now known, Visual Studio.Net. (Visual Studio.Net is slated to go to beta by the end of this summer and ship commercially next year.)

But in detailing Microsoft's .Net Framework during a general session here at the PDC Tuesday, Microsoft distinguished engineer Anders Hejlsberg mentioned every language but Java.

"The .Net platform is truly language-neutral," Hejlsberg told the audience. "All .Net languages are first-class players."

Hejlsberg went on to list the wide variety of third-party languages, ranging from APL and Cobol to Pascal, Eiffel and SmallTalk, that various vendors are porting to support the Microsoft .Net framework.

The framework is a common set of classes and libraries that provide the basis for the .Net building blocks that Microsoft is building to deliver on its software as a service .Net platform.

But Hejlsberg, who played a key role in developing Microsoft J++ after joining Microsoft from Inprise (the former Borland International) didn't mention Java at all.

Rational's work confirmed Rational Software was rumoured, at one point, to have taken over Microsoft's J++ product, with Microsoft's blessing. But Rational never confirmed that speculation, and Microsoft outright denied it.

Rational is working on a version of Java that will be based on top of Microsoft's .Net Framework, Microsoft officials confirmed.

"We already said we would develop a Java compiler that would plug into Visual Studio .Net," said Sunny Gupta, director of global alliances with Rational Software. But Gupta denied to provide any implementation details. He wouldn't comment on when Rational plans to deliver such a compiler or even whether or not it would be optimized to work on Microsoft's .Net Framework.

Microsoft officials added that any company, including Sun, would be able to develop and sell a .Net-enabled version of Java, as Microsoft is making public all the tools and technologies that would be needed for any company to do so.

They admitted that the prospect of Sun doing such an implementation was highly unexpected, however.

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