Sun links Java, XML languages for online business

The company says it is linking the two prominent Web development languages to simplify e-commerce software development and to better position Java against rival technologies.

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Sun Microsystems is linking two prominent Web development languages--Java and XML--to simplify e-commerce software development and to better position Java against rival technologies.

Sun on Monday released application programming interfaces (APIs), or sets of instructions, that connect Java software with XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for exchanging data.

Software programmers use the popular Java language to write business software and to build e-commerce Web sites. XML has become a popular way to exchange data, allowing companies to conduct online transactions with customers, suppliers and partners.

The new interfaces that tie Java with XML will make it simpler and faster for software developers to create Web sites for e-business, said Anne Thomas Manes, director of market innovation at Sun Software, a division of the computing giant.

"It makes XML a natural extension of Java," she said.

The new XML technology helps Sun position Java as the preferred programming language in its vision of Web-based computing, where software and services are delivered over the Internet. Other Java supporters including Oracle and IBM have touted a future in which people don't have to install software on their PCs and other Internet access devices. Instead, the software could be accessed through the Web as a service.

Sun rival Microsoft recently said it is following a similar technology path and announced a new business strategy to develop software that ties its Windows operating system to the Web. Core to Microsoft's strategy is XML and a new Java-like programming language called C# (pronounced C-sharp).

As part of Sun's announcement, one common interface, called the Java API for XML messaging, will allow businesses to send and receive XML messages, Manes said. The interface will allow businesses to send messages using a new messaging standard, called WebXML, that is being created by an industrywide consortium called Oasis.

Sun is also releasing an updated Java API for XML Processing, which now supports the latest XML standards, Manes said. The interface integrates Java software with XML parsers. Parsers dissect and read XML text, much as Web browsers read HTML to display Web pages on a computer.

Previously, developers had to write their own software code to connect Java to the parser.

The updated interface will support the XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language) transformation standard. XSL technology lets people define how a document is presented, specifying color and font. XSL transformation lets developers easily map different documents together without having to write a lot of software code.

Sun executives say they are releasing test versions of the two interfaces with the final versions available in early 2001. They are available free for download at Sun's software developer Web site.

Sun on Monday also said it will soon ship another interface, called the Java API for XML Data Binding. It is technology that converts XML documents into Java software code--and vice versa, Manes said. For example, if a business receives a purchase order in XML that needs to be sent to the warehouse department, the technology will automatically generate the Java code to direct the warehouse's computers to ship the product. Sun expects to ship the new interface in the first quarter of 2001.