Q&A: MS's Pryke-Smith on Java

Halfway through Microsoft's Java DevCon in London this week, PCDN spoke to Mike Pryke-Smith, Internet and tools product manager, about the firm's Visual J++ development toolkit and how Big Green sees Java fitting in to the IT landscape.

PCDN: How has the show been so far?

Very good. We've had about 350 attendees from consultants, corporates and smaller developers. We've been profiling Visual J++ and the role ActiveX is playing in extending the Java language. We're telling people that you can use J++'s Developer Studio as a common environment with things like Visual C++, Fortran, Visual Test and Visual SourceSafe, and, further down the line, Visual Basic.

How does Visual J++ fit into ActiveX development?

The Java implementation we have done is completely to Sun's specification. The code is completely compatible and should run any Java machine. It compiles applications at 10,000 lines a second. Java is just another programming language like Visual C++. They all have their various strengths and weaknesses. The compelling thing is that it is cross-platform. There are about 800 shipping ActiveX components and a lot of our apps use ActiveX. If you want to write an Access application you use an ActiveX app-let. We think a requirement will be to do things like database work. With Java and something like DirectX you could write a version of Doom because it's a fast, low-level graphics API.

What's your response to criticisms that you can't really be a supporter of Java because you're so focused on Windows, ActiveX and other Microsoft-led platforms?

You don't have to implement ActiveX [with J++]. We realise that in the past we have been Windows-centric. The Internet has made us more broad and we're working to make ActiveX more cross-platform, for instance swapping developers with SAG for the Unix version and Macromedia for the Macintosh version. ActiveX is for application development whether it's for the Internet or intra-net. ActiveX is basically a set of controls. Of course, OLE controls have become renamed as ActiveX controls but we've also added specifications like ActiveMovie for video streaming and ActiveServer to run applications on the server. We want ActiveX to be established on the Mac and for the first time on the Unix platform. The reason we wanted to have an independent ActiveX standards body is that we need input to do that.