For the record, Microsoft officials say that they will do whatever their customers want but that no one to date has specifically asked for Java-based applications. The company now leads the productivity application market.
"We don't have customers coming to us [for Java]," said Office group product manager Matthew Price. "They're concerned about solving real-world problems, not what language we're coding in."
Price neither confirmed nor denied the report, which appeared in the industry publication InformationWeek and quoted anonymous sources. But his comments indicated that Microsoft was not ready to slim down Office to the bare necessities, something that second bananas Corel and Lotus Development have done to make their Java applications more network-friendly.
"The common misperception is that people only use 20 percent of the features," Price said. "If we were to strip out a number of features, there would be an enormous backlash."
The speculation over Microsoft's Java plans come one week before Corel releases the server component of its Office for Java suite. A full beta of the suite is due at next month's JavaOne conference.
Given the software giant's resources, it would be unwise not to assume Microsoft is at least working on a Java version of Office, even if it plans only to shelve it until the market is ready, as the Information Week story suggests.
Microsoft "could easily fund and run a skunkworks," said Chris Biber, Corel's director of strategic alliances. "If there's a grain of truth to this rumor, I expect them to jump in this year."
Lotus will release its Kona suite of Java applications later this summer.