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MS makes Java statement

Microsoft is making a big play for corporate Java and ActiveX developers with a new version of its Visual J++ development tool.

Microsoft (MSFT) is making a big play for corporate Java developers.

The company today announced a new version of its Visual J++ development tool and has posted a free trial copy to its Web site in the hope of hooking developers on Microsoft's particular brew of Java.

The company wants to use Visual J++ to spread the word that it is interested in cross-platform development, not just Java for Windows.

But although the tool can also be used for pure Java development--that is code that could be deployed across several platforms--Microsoft is highlighting the ActiveX support in Visual J++ as a major differentiator with its competitors, including Java WorkShop from SunSoft, Visual Cafe from Symantec, Powersoft's Jato, and the upcoming JBuilder from Borland International.

Mitch Kramer, an analyst with the Patricia Seybold Group, said Visual J++ "does a good job with wizards and has the best development environment" of the current crop of Java tools. But he noted that other tools, notably Powersoft's Jato, are better suited to rapid application development techniques preferred by IS programmers.

Visual J++ 1.1 Professional Edition includes two new wizards that could make Java, a low-level language similar to C++, a better tool for building corporate systems hooked to databases. Not surprisingly, the company has also included a wizard for creating ActiveX components written in Java for inclusion in Windows-based applications.

Microsoft has also imbued Visual J++ with its Developer Studio user interface, which includes advanced scripting tools for automating repetitive development tasks.

The free trial version includes the new wizards, enhanced development environment, and support for Microsoft's Access database. The full version, which will debut on March 19 as part of Microsoft's Visual Studio 97 development tool package, also includes additional database support, a toolkit so developers can add digital signatures to their ActiveX applets and files for security, Microsoft's Developer Network Library technical documentation library, and a book on Java development.

Microsoft has not announced pricing. Full details will be provided later this month, according to Hyer Bercaw, Visual J++ product manager at Microsoft.