According to sources close to the software giant, the Visual J++ 6.0 tool will be one part of the Visual Studio 6.0 suite, the rest of which will roll out throughout the rest of the year. The Java tool will advance Microsoft's philosophy about Java: It's a great programming language, but it can't beat Windows as a platform. In fact, the tool is an attempt to draw C++ programmers over to Java, as long as they continue to build Windows applications.
"Microsoft is whole-hearted in its commitment to Java as a language, and it understands clearly that given reasonable exposure to Java, most C++ programmers will shift," said Evan Quinn, director of Java research at International Data Corporation. "The trick is not just to make [its tool] palatable for Java programmers, but to make it a business imperative."
To do so, Microsoft has added to Visual J++ 6.0 new class libraries, called Windows Foundation Classes (WFC), allowing Java developers simpler access to native Windows resources from within Java applications. Windows Foundation Classes are a superset of Microsoft's Application Foundation Classes.
"What we're talking about here is that certain developers will consciously choose to build Windows applications," said a source familiar with the product. "This is a handy way to do that."
The WFC also will advance Microsoft's strategy to pull Java developers over to its "BackOffice" server platform anchored by Windows NT.
"Everyone understands now that Java's real strength is on the server side," said Quinn. "It would surprise me if [Visual J++ 6.0] doesn't have a complete set of classes for building server-side applications."
Those applications won't run on non-Windows platforms, of course, and critics say that violates the spirit of Java's "write once, run anywhere" promise.
"If you expect to use Microsoft tools to build real Java applications, then you should also expect to be disappointed when you try to move beyond the proprietary confines of the Windows environment. It is that simple," wrote Java Lobby founder Rick Ross on his Web site.
As first reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Microsoft also will add two "keywords," or basic programming commands, to Java. Representatives would not confirm or deny the keyword aspect of the report.
Microsoft representatives denied reports that the company would ship a new language with its toolset, and that it would add new pointers and byte code to Java.
The new release of Visual J++ also will be tuned to work with COM+, Microsoft's next iteration of its Component Object Model architecture.