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Microsoft Courts Java Developers

Just two days after settling its three-year Java lawsuit with Sun Microsystems Inc., Microsoft Corp. announced the Java User Migration Path to Microsoft .NET (JUMP to .NET).

A set of independently-developed technologies and service offerings, JUMP to .NET is designed to enable developers to migrate their Java language projects onto the .NET platform. JUMP to .NET is the latest in a series of moves by Microsoft to support multiple programming languages and provide seamless integration among different languages on the .NET Platform.

While much of the talk around the IT industry revolves around interoperability and cross-platform integration,

Dirk Coburn, IDC's research director for Java and XML e-business programs, says JUMP to .NET is simply a migration path.

"I have no doubt that Microsoft will be successful, but one thing that must be understood is that this a classic one-way migration path," he says. "It doesn't promote choice, it doesn't promote integration across a heterogeneous environment, rather it promotes migration to a homogeneous platform."

Microsoft claims JUMP to .NET will provide developers with an easy roadmap to transfer code written in its own Visual J++ language onto the .NET platform. Existing applications developed with Visual J++ can be modified to execute on the .NET Platform, interoperate with other .NET languages and applications and incorporate new .NET functionality.

While this is all true, Coburn says JUMP to .NET and other recent initiatives by Microsoft are "all about taking code from elsewhere and migrating it into Microsoft C++. In this case, it's providing a migration path to move from Java into C++ and C sharp.”

Although he feels JUMP to .NET will be a success, Coburn says Microsoft’s customers would be better served if Redmond provided cross-platform interoperability for developers looking to move to the .NET platform. "It's not open agnostic or interoperative like the market really wants," he says. "It's a very shrewd business decision, but shrewd is wearing very thin in today's marketplace."

JUMP to .NET consists of three sets of tools--interoperability support, programming tools support, and automated conversion from Java source code to C#. Using the interoperability support tools, applications built with Visual J++ can be modified to work with the .NET Platform and also extended to take advantage of new .NET functionality. The programming tools can be hosted in the Visual Studio.NET integrated development environment, and allow developers to use the Java language syntax to directly target the .NET Platform. Finally, the C# tool automatically converts existing Java source code into C#, migrating both language syntax and library calls.

For customers who do not have the time or means to perform the migration, Microsoft is offering a paid consulting service to apply the JUMP to .NET technologies to specific customer projects.

In settling their lawsuit, the two companies agreed to a deal in which Microsoft will pay Sun $20 million. As part of the settlement, Microsoft can now only continue to sell existing products that use an older 1.1.4 version of Java that Microsoft currently has and cannot modify it for future products.

Only time will tell how much the settlement will effect Microsoft's ability to support Java, says Coburn. "The early indications are that Microsoft and Sun have differentiating ideas about the Java support capabilities that Microsoft will have," he says. "There is an uncertainty factor in predicting how it will play out."

A beta release of the JUMP to .NET tools is expected in the first half of 2001, with a final release in the second half of the year. – Jim Martin

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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