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Microsoft wants end to Java wars

It isn't exactly an olive branch, but Microsoft wants to see an end to the Java religious wars with Sun.

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft didn't exactly hand Sun Microsystems an olive branch today, but it says it wants to see an end to the Java religious wars.

At the JavaOne developer conference here, Microsoft announced enhancements to the application foundation classes, a set of Java class libraries, and posted pieces of them on the Net. Microsoft also said that it would develop a Java version of its Distributed Component Object Model.

Meanwhile, Sun and Netscape Communications joined forces today to combine their respective libraries into a single package called the Java Foundation Classes. Both sides argue that their class libraries are superior.

As the two camps aggressively lobby developers to use their respective tools, Sun this week urged Microsoft to submit its Java technologies to Sun's "100 percent pure Java" compatibility test. That is Sun's campaign to persuade developers to write Java applications totally cross-platform, rather than those that use dabs of code that are native to Windows and other operating systems.

Today, Microsoft maintained that its class libraries are cross-platform and that it has no immediate plans to submit them to Sun's Java test. But the company did its best to position itself as a 100 percent committed--if not a 100 percent "pure"--Java company.

"We're trying to do the best implementations [of Java tools] we can," said Cornelius Willis, director of platform marketing at Microsoft. We hope we can get users to ignore the religious rhetoric. All end users care about is good software."

The battle between Microsoft and Sun may indeed be largely irrelevant because both camps maintain that applications built with either code will be completely cross-platform. Most developers, however, will need to choose between using the two.

Microsoft is doing everything it can to win over as many of those developers as possible. The company said it would expand application foundation classes in the second half of this year with Enterprise Libraries that will provide links between Java programs and management, directory, and transaction services. Previously, the classes included code for building the graphical user interface of Java applications.

Microsoft also posted a "preview release" of its classes on its Web site. To entice developers, Microsoft unveiled J/Advantage, a program that will provide co-marketing deals for the products and discounts on software.

Sun announced a similar program today that includes a deal with the Ziff-Davis publishing company to provide discounted advertising to developers of 100 percent pure programs.

Today, Microsoft also beefed up its Windows 95 and NT Java virtual machine, the engine that powers Java applets, to support better performance and links between JavaBeans and ActiveX. Microsoft and Metrowerks also said that their jointly developed Macintosh VM can be freely redistributed by users of CodeWarrior, Metrowerks Java development environment.

Microsoft said that it would offer a Java version of DCOM in the second half of this year that will help spread the technology beyond Windows NT and the few Unix platforms that support it now.

"It's a way to ensure that DCOM will run anywhere," Microsoft's Willis said today.