Sun, Microsoft Agreement Deepens Rift

The $20 million java settlement reached last week between Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. could lead to even sharper battle lines in the companies' platform war.

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The $20 million java settlement reached last week between Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. could lead to even sharper battle lines in the companies platform war.

For developers committed to one technology or the other, the settlement will have little impact, but for those using a mix of both, it will cause integration problems and other headaches.

"Unfortunately, this appears to be a damaging blow for the Java development community who code on the Microsoft platform," said Tim Huckaby, president of InterKnowlogy LLC, an e-business development company and a Microsoft partner in Carlsbad, Calif.

Having software engineers skilled in Java, C++ and Visual Basic has been particularly useful with integration projects, Huckaby said. If the companies dont agree on technology, "we might be looking at using the wrong tools for the right job in some instances. Thats not a good thing," he said.

The resolution of Suns three-plus-year lawsuit against the Redmond, Wash., company limits Microsofts Java license to existing products with its own Java virtual machine and Visual J++ for seven years.

"This creates a ... schism," said Tim Bray, co-author of XML (Extensible Markup Language), in Vancouver, British Columbia. "As part of .Net, theres talk of C# [C-sharp] and a glaring absence of Java. I think its a problem. If you look at the rest of the industry, it is becoming fairly Java-centric," on the server side, Bray said.

Some developers said that the deal might detract from Java on clients by requiring a plug-in, but others said that most Java these days is on the back end.

"This is definitely going to divide it into two camps: Microsoft and everybody else," said Alex Hochberger, CEO of Feratech Inc., a development shop in Boston. "Im not sure who has the edge in that." Chris Toomer, technical architect for Interlink Group Inc., of Denver, said the settlement will hasten the adoption of C#, which is in early beta, by developers currently using a mix of Java and C++ or Visual Basic.

But others said that languages are becoming less important as new technologies that allow greater interoperability, such as Simple Object Access Protocol and XML, take center stage.

Microsoft downplayed the effect of the settlement on its developers. While Visual J++ is not being adapted for .Net, Microsoft Product Manager Tony Goodhew said Version 6.0 will be available as a separate install.

Goodhew said Microsoft will ensure backward compatibility for developers who use its Java tools. Toward that end, the company last week announced the creation of Java User Migration Path to .Net, dubbed JUMP to .Net, which is a set of tools to help Visual J++ and other Java users migrate Java applications to .Net. Its due in beta later this year.