Microsoft, Sun at war again over Java

InfoWorld |  Development

JUST WHEN IT looked as if the Java battle between Microsoft and Sun was over, the fight turned into a war.

The battle was resolved this week when Microsoft and Sun settled a 3-year lawsuit over Microsoft's use of Java. The settlement essentially drew a line that forces developers to choose between Java's portability or tight integration with Windows applications.

The war kicked in when Microsoft, a mere two days after the settlement, fired back with Java User Migration Path (JUMP) to .NET, a set of products to help developers migrate Java applications to the .NET platform.

"The settlement drives the fact that you have to make the choice of developing for the Java platform or building for the Windows platform -- there will be no middle ground," said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Meta Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based market research firm.

The settlement is not a surprise, analysts said, because Microsoft did not appear to be in a position to win the case. Last October, the federal judge presiding over the case issued a tentative decision stating that Microsoft, in fact, had violated Sun's trademark by placing the Java logo on software that failed Sun's compatibility testing.

Both companies consider the settlement a victory.

"They can continue to distribute an outdated version of our technology, but they can't use Java for .NET," said Patricia Sueltz, executive vice president of the software systems group at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun.

Microsoft officials, however, have declared publicly that the company has no interest in using Java for .NET. "This is a good thing to get behind us, move forward, and concentrate on [.NET]," said Tony Goodhew, a Microsoft product manager.

Microsoft has given developers three ways for Java to segue to a .NET deployment: via JUMP to .NET, including a tool for J++; by converting Java syntax or other Java tools; or by making use of services offered by Microsoft.

"It seems to be a Rube Goldberg approach to using Java and then being able to deploy to a Microsoft platform," said Dana Gardner, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, in Boston. Developers will have to jump through hoops to convert XML and code and to deal with the hiccups, bumps, and bugs along the way, Gardner said. "What you are not going to see is any ability for a Java developer to easily deploy that application on Windows. And I think that is the biggest risk that Microsoft takes," Gardner added.

Microsoft is forging ahead with its own plans, C# specifically. C#, Microsoft's newest object-oriented programming language and reputed "Java killer," is in the beta testing phase and will be a key component in the forthcoming Visual Studio.NET. The success of C# depends primarily on the partners who support it.

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