At one time, Microsoft produced one of the fastest Java Virtual Machines, and programmers using its Visual J++ development tool represented one of the largest blocks — if not the largest block — of Java programmers.
On Oct. 7, 1997, everything changed. Sun Microsystems filed suit against Microsoft for allegedly violating the terms of its Java license agreement.
After several preliminary rounds in court, Microsoft settled for a modest $20 million and sent its Java license back to Sun. That move left its dedicated J++ programmers stuck with the Java Development Kit 1.1 and its outmoded Java Virtual Machine. Java developers using Borlands JBuilder, IBMs VisualAge for Java or WebGains Visual Café are now using Java 2s JDK 1.3 — many generations ahead of the J++ developers.
Under the terms of its settlement with Sun, Microsoft may only maintain J++ with JDK 1.1 for the next seven years. With the end of Visual J++ in sight, Microsoft is encouraging J++ programmers to transition their programming skills to Microsofts C Sharp (C#), a new Java-like language due by the end of the year.
That transition will be eased by Microsofts Java User Migration Path to Microsoft.Net — or JUMP to .Net — which the company launched the day after the settlement was announced.
"JUMP provides everything J++ programmers need" to migrate their skills and programs to .Net, says Dan Ray, Microsofts lead product manager for Visual Studio, which includes Visual Basic, Visual C++ and Visual J++, along with C#, in its final release late this year. Among other things, JUMP will provide an automatic conversion utility of J++ source code to C#.
But that doesnt mean every J++ programmer will move to C# on cue.
"Theres definitely a migration going on with Visual Basic and J++ programmers," says Ted Farrell, chief technology officer at WebGain, supplier of the Visual Café Java tool set. "If you want to program in Java, then chances are you will stick with Java, not migrate to C#."
Tony de la Lama, general manager of Borlands Java business unit, says his division has seen 85 percent revenue growth from its JBuilder development environment from the first quarter of 2000 to the first quarter of 2001. And at least part of that increase is attributable to defections by Microsofts Java developers, he says.
But Dean Guida, president and CEO of Infragistics, a supplier of components to both Java and Windows programmers, predicts the remaining J++ programmers will migrate to C# because they are developing for Windows and want the direct ties that C# will provide.
"J++ programmers kind of got the word a couple of years ago that J++ was not going to be revived," Guida says.