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Andreessen: MS will capitulate on CORBA

Getting into verbal skirmishes on standards and protocols is getting to be a ritual for Microsoft, and the Catalyst conference in San Francisco was no different.

SAN FRANCISCO--Getting into verbal skirmishes on standards and protocols is getting to be a ritual for Microsoft, and today's Catalyst conference here was no different.

Microsoft's (MSFT) Jim Allchin, senior vice president of personal and business systems, squared off against rivals in the debate over component architecture.

In the area of network-centric application development and distribution, some of the world's largest software companies are lining up in two camps: Microsoft with its ActiveX development platform and DCOM distribution framework on one side, and proponents of JavaBeans components and CORBA distribution on the other.

The JavaBeans-CORBA camp--IBM, Netscape, Novell, and Sun Microsystems--painted Microsoft's solution as incompatible with Internet standards, and one rival predicted that the software giant would be forced to support CORBA in the near future.

"[Microsoft] will ultimately have to drop DCOM and support CORBA," said Netscape vice president of technology Marc Andreessen. "I say they'll capitulate on CORBA within 18 months."

Not everyone in the anti-DCOM camp was on the same page, however. "Both DCOM and CORBA will exist for some time," said Sun vice president Bud Tribble. "People will make lots of money building bridges between the two."

Now that the two sides have defined their positions, the war is on to bring developers on board. Sun and its allies have mounted a campaign to keep Java software free of native code and free to run on practically all operating system platforms. Microsoft contends that developers need to add native enhancements to Java to obtain a full range of features, which Sun's Tribble conceded today was true.

"Multimedia APIs for Java, and specifically video, are a year away," Tribble said. "For a Java application that needs multimedia today, you have to call native services."

Tribble also said that APIs (application programming interfaces) for transaction services will come much sooner but did not give a date. Both he and Andreessen acknowledged that performance for Java code has been slow in the past but is becoming less of an issue as the language matures and developers build faster compilers and optimizers.