The Redmond, Wash., behemoth said Tuesday that it will sell software that allows Java programs to connect to data housed in Microsoft's SQL Server 2000 database. Microsoft is licensing the software, called a Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) driver, from software maker Merant and re-branding it under the Microsoft name.
Analysts, however, say Microsoft's Java support will appeal to only a small number of Java developers. Most Java developers use databases from IBM and Oracle, two big Java supporters, analysts say.
Microsoft has a long and contentious history with Java, a software language created by Sun that allows developers to write software that runs on any hardware or operating system. Microsoft has historically steered software developers to write for the Windows operating system.
After settling a four-year lawsuit with Sun over its use of Java, Microsoft has decided not to include the latest Java virtual machine software in its forthcoming Windows XP operating system and Internet Explorer 6 browser.
Jeff Ressler, Microsoft's lead product manager for SQL Server, said the company is adding support for JDBC because customers demanded it. Analysts say the demand is small and that Microsoft's support for JDBC should not be interpreted as a signal that Microsoft plans to support Java further.
"This makes it more attractive to a little niche of their constituency," said Gartner analyst Jon Rubin. "This is just a concession to the reality that there are strange bedfellows out there and that some companies intermingle Java with SQL Server."
In fact, Microsoft's latest strategy is to woo away Java developers from Sun with a set of tools that translate Java software, so it can support .Net, Microsoft's new strategy for building Web services software using its Windows operating system and other products. As part of the effort, Microsoft has created C#, a language to compete against Java.
JDBC is similar to Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), a standard way for accessing database information from client programs and other server software. But JDBC is tailored so Java developers can use it. Microsoft is making the test version of its JDBC driver available as a free download. The company will release a final version in the first quarter of next year. No pricing has been announced.
Microsoft's Ressler said the company is fine-tuning the JDBC driver for SQL Server and will offer customer support when it releases a final version early next year.