Sun Microsystems (SUNW)
and Netscape Communications (NSCP)
today cemented their Java partnership, but Microsoft (MSFT)
says it isn't joining their gang.
Earlier today, the companies posted an developer release of the
Java foundation classes (JFC) on Sun's FTP site. The JFCs are a set of
software building blocks for composing the look-and-feel of Java
applications, as well as adding basic capabilities like printing.
Announced in April, the JFCs represent the merger of existing Netscape
and Sun technologies--the abstract windowing toolkit (AWT) and Internet
foundation classes (IFC)--and are an attempt to avert the confusion that
two Java programming standards were sure to cause amongst developers. IBM also participated in the development
Unfortunately, one of Sun's most important Java licensees, Microsoft,
says it wants nothing to do with the JFCs. The software giant has
developed its own set of class libraries, the application foundation
classes (AFC), which it intends to ship with its Internet Explorer 4.0
browser by the end of the summer instead of the JFCs. A beta version of
Explorer with the AFCs will be out later this month; a standalone
version of AFCs came out in April.
"They caught up to AFC, almost," said Cornelius Willis, director of
platform marketing at Microsoft.
Although the tools are incompatible with each other, the AFCs and JFCs
have the same aim. They both containing graphic user interface
components, such as tool bars, buttons, and menus, that developer can
quickly assemble into applications rather than having to write them
individually from scratch.
Sun said that JFCs has a unique feature that lets a user change the
look-and-feel of an application "on the fly" as they are running an
application. A user can, for example, choose between an interface that is
standard across all operating systems or one that melds more closely to
the unique appearance of a Windows 95 or Mac OS program.
"The focus has been to make it very easy to build fairly complicated
user interfaces," said Jon Kannegaard, vice president of software
products at Sun's JavaSoft division.
Sun said that it will ship the final version of the JFCs as part of the
next edition of the Java development kit (JDK) in the fourth quarter.
According to Rick Fleischman, group product manager for tools at
Netscape, the company will release a version of Communicator that
supports JFCs "as soon as possible" after the final JFCs are released.