January 16, 2001, 3:52 PM — OPTING TO FIGHT archrival Sun Microsystems in the Java arena the old-fashioned way -- with technology rather than through the courts -- Microsoft is working to ink a broad alliance with Hewlett-Packard that could join the companies' application development strategies at the hip.
Microsoft and HP hope to craft a deal that would have Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP back Microsoft's efforts to get the International Organization for Standardization (commonly known as the ISO) to endorse Microsoft's C# programming language and .NET development platforms as industry standards. In return, HP wants Microsoft to forcefully endorse HP's e-speak development environment and Chai technologies for embedded Java applications, said a source close to HP.
Officials at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft have said they want to incorporate Java into strategic product plans but have been prevented from doing so because their hands were tied in ongoing court battles with Sun.
Microsoft has held a license for Chai since 1998 and may opt to put that Java technology to use, according to one Microsoft official, who declined to elaborate.
An overarching alliance with HP could potentially offer developers an alternative to Sun's Java as well as give the two companies more leverage against Sun.
But there is also some concern that players of Microsoft's and HP's stature could fracture the Java development community into two camps. It could also put at risk major investments by large IT shops in the current Java platform.
"If Microsoft and HP use this as a wedge to disrupt coherence in the Java standard, that will be problematic for developers and consumers ... already struggling to keep a handle on a moving target," said Melinda Ballou, an analyst at Meta Group, in Stamford, Conn.
Either through technology or the ruling of a court, Microsoft needs to incorporate Java into its product mix, according to some analysts.
"Microsoft has got to do something with Java. Their clients are demanding it, because if you want to build anything on the Web, you need Java," said Rikki Kirzner, vice president of application development and deployment at IDC, in Mountain View, Calif. "HP is the furthest thing from Sun's Java. They've done the most modification to it, so it would be a fit for Microsoft."
Kirzner said a significant percentage of Windows developers already are using off-the-shelf Java to build applications.
Through this agreement, Microsoft would layer HP's Chai, a clean-room, fully functioning, embedded Java version into .NET, according to one of the sources.
Chai could help Microsoft take advantage of non-Windows applications written to Java. As part of .NET, for instance, Chai could enable users of non-Windows devices, such as J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) handsets to access .NET servers and Web servvices.