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Sun vs MS: Let's call the whole thing off

As the Sun versus Microsoft battle over Java drags on, Windows developers wonder if it's time to write off J++ and adopt Microsoft's 'Java killer', C#

As the legal battle between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems over Java continues to drag on, the specter of Microsoft's C# Java competitor is looming large.

At the time Sun sued Microsoft more than three years ago for allegedly failing to comply with Sun's Java licensing terms, Microsoft was actively pushing its own version of Java, called J++. In recent months, Microsoft has put all its eggs in its C# (pronounced "C-sharp") basket -- and developers are wondering aloud when Microsoft will officially dump J++ and move on.

On Wednesday Microsoft and Sun attorneys were slated to present oral arguments on pending motions in the Java suit, said Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan. But over the weekend, Microsoft said the hearing had been postponed and not yet rescheduled, delaying the still-unscheduled trial date for the case even further.

Microsoft took the wraps off its C# language, which is one of a handful of languages that will be part of its Visual Studio .Net tool suite, earlier this year. At the time of the C# unveiling, Microsoft said as a result of the ongoing Sun lawsuit it was not permitted to include J++ as one of the supported Visual Studio .Net languages.

Microsoft originally developed C# under the code name "Cool", and prior to release of the product, claimed that Cool was merely a better version of Microsoft's C++ language. Privately, Microsoft told developers that Cool was meant to be Microsoft's answer to Sun's Java.

And, indeed, a number of testers who have been dabbling with Beta 1 of Visual Studio .Net -- which Microsoft released at Fall Comdex this year and is due to ship in the latter half of 2001 -- said Microsoft's new language almost completely obviates the need for Java.

"C# is all you really need," said Rick Williamson, chief executive of FarPoint Technologies, a Windows component developer based in Morrisville, North Carolina. "I'd suspect Microsoft will just drop J++."

Williamson went so far as to say that he considers C# to be the most stable part of Visual Studio .Net Beta 1.

Another Beta 1 tester, Sam Patterson, chief executive of ComponentSource, an Atlanta-based component marketplace, agreed. "Everything you can do in Java, you can do in C# or even Visual Basic now with Visual Studio .Net," he said. "In the past, because Java was a lower-level language, you could do more with it."

Visual Studio .Net testers did note that, unlike Java, C# is not cross-platform and currently supports the development of Windows-based and Microsoft .Net-based applications only.

But developers speculated that Microsoft was talking to third-party vendors about porting the underlying .Net framework interfaces to other platforms -- however, Microsoft has steadfastly declined to comment on when and if it will do so. The only company that publicly has expressed interest in doing such a port is Corel, which has said it would be willing to port .Net to Linux if Microsoft so requested.

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