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Microsoft casts .Net for Java workers

The software colossus releases the final version of Visual J#.Net, a tool aimed at luring Java developers to the company's .Net software strategy.

Microsoft has released a new programming tool aimed at attracting Java developers to its .Net software strategy.

At its Tech Ed 2002 Europe developer conference Monday, Microsoft released the final version of Visual J#.Net, a tool that lets programmers use the Java language to build software that works only with Microsoft's .Net technology. The tool doesn't allow programmers to build standalone Java software.

The .Net plan is a strategy for building software using Web services, an emerging trend that allows companies to interact and conduct business via the Internet. Competitors, including Sun Microsystems, IBM, Oracle and BEA Systems, support a rival method of building Web services that uses the Java standard.

In March, Sun raised concerns about Visual J#.Net in its private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. Sun charged that Microsoft had corrupted Java, undermining its promise of allowing developers to create software that can run on different types of computers or operating systems without having to be rewritten. Microsoft executives, however, assert that Visual J#.Net's limited capability allows Microsoft to sidestep licensing issues with Java creator Sun.

Microsoft executives predict that 12 percent to 15 percent of all Java developers will use Visual J#.Net within a year.

"If you write apps using the Java language irrespective of any platform, we will have 15 to 20 percent of the market," said Tony Goodhew, product manager for Microsoft's developer division.

Microsoft previously released two test versions of the Java tool. Microsoft customers who bought Microsoft's Visual Studio.Net package of development tools can download for free the final version of the Java tool on Microsoft's developer Web site. Visual J#.Net will also be added to the retail packaged versions of Visual Studio.Net within four to six weeks. Visual Studio.Net, released in February, is a family of programming tools that includes Microsoft's Visual Basic, C++ and C#.

"Visual J#.Net will be on par with Visual Basic, C#, and C++ as a great tool for building a .Net application," Goodhew said.

Microsoft added a few improvements to Visual J#.Net, including better documentation and sample code to help teach programmers how to use the tool, he said. Visual J#.Net includes tools that allow customers using Microsoft's older Java tool, called Visual J++, to support Visual Studio.Net. It also integrates with Microsoft's .Net Framework, which automates many development tasks and helps software run across multiple Windows-based servers and PCs.