Critics Hit Microsoft Move

Developers, competitors say expansion of .Net strategy is aimed at suppressing growth of Java

While every move Microsoft Corp. makes in the near future is likely to come under intense scrutiny—following the appeals courts ruling last week in the Microsoft antitrust case—Microsoft critics say the company is continuing to try to suppress competing technologies.

Last week, the Redmond, Wash., software company announced plans to work with Ottawa-based software maker Corel Corp. to build a shared source implementation of Microsofts C# programming language and the CLI (Common Language Infrastructure) specifications on the Windows and FreeBSD platforms. It was touted as evidence of the companys growing commitment to open standards and interoperability.

But the news fell on deaf ears as developers and competitors said the move is merely designed to suppress the growth of the Java language and environment, which are forceful competitors in the Web services arena.

Other developers are also not buying it. They said the move has less to do with those factors and far more to do with Microsofts plans to counter the threat posed by Java on the Web services front.

C# is a Java-like programming language designed to facilitate the building of Web-based software, while CLI is a key subset of the .Net framework. Both are critical components of Microsofts software-as-a-service .Net platform.

Rob Scoble, a beta tester and an editor at Fawcette Technical Publications, in Palo Alto, Calif., said this was just another move to counter the Web services threat posed by Java.

Some developers said Microsofts goal was to try to drive the focus away from Java and toward C# by encouraging the development of additional versions of C# that run on multiple operating systems and hardware.

Robin Cutshaw, president of Internet Laboratories Inc., in Atlanta, said he did not completely believe that Microsoft is trying to be cross-platform. "Its still very much tied in with the whole Microsoft architecture," Cutshaw said. "Even though theyre saying theyre opening up, theyre [basically] providing compiler tools and some source code related to other tools. But that doesnt really mean its going to work cross-platform."

In fact, Microsofts latest moves make Cutshaw even less inclined to look at C#. "Its obvious this is a jab back at Java," he said. "It galls them when something [they didnt invent] is successful, and theyre going to try to eat away at Java with this."

Some developers are also skeptical that Microsofts announcement will encourage their colleagues to give C# a try. "Most of the features in C# we already have in Java," said Suneet Shah, a Java developer and chief technology officer of Diamelle Inc., in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.

"If youre already using Java, and Java has a huge installed base, why would you invest in something that is kind of similar but doesnt have that installed base yet?" Shah asked.