The company, which first announced plans for the tool in March, initially gave Java the cold shoulder when Sun Microsystems introduced it to the Internet last year. Since then, Microsoft has gone through a wholesale conversion to Java, developing a souped-up engine called a just-in-time compiler that will be incorporated into its Internet Explorer browser and, later this year, Windows itself. The company has also attempted to position Java as a partner for, not a competitor to, its ActiveX Internet framework.
With Visual J++, formerly code-named Jakarta, Microsoft intends to cover all its bases by providing tools for the growing community of Java developers. The product will pit the company directly against Borland International, Symantec, and SunSoft, all of which are working on or have released their own Java development tools.
Microsoft, however, hopes to distinguish its tool by providing developers with facilities for linking applets and ActiveX components. The company is also working with Sun to improve the language, though it denied that it would extend Java in ways that would be proprietary to Windows.
"I don't see us going off and changing the language definition," said Greg DeMichillie, development manager at Microsoft. "You will see [Java] evolve in carefully constricted ways."
During beta testing, Visual J++ will be available for free downloading. Pricing has not been announced for the final version of the product, which will ship in the fall.