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Windows 3.1 gets Java

Determined to position itself among the Java vanguard, Microsoft introduces an online gallery for Java code and a Java Virtual Machine for Windows 3.1.

Determined to position itself among the Java vanguard, Microsoft (MSFT) today introduced an online gallery for Java code and a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) for Windows 3.1.

At its Professional Developers Conference in Long Beach, California, Microsoft will publicly demonstrate the Windows 3.1 JVM, the engine required to power Java applets through a Web browser. The JVM will be incorporated into Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1, a new beta version of which will be released within the next two weeks, according to Charles Fitzgerald, product manager at Microsoft.

Java support has been sorely lacking on the Windows 3.1 operating system that is, by most estimates, still the most pervasive in the world. Microsoft is not the first to produce a JVM for the popular OS, though. In August, IBM released the first Windows 3.1 JVM for developers, overcoming what it described as serious engineering challenges in getting Java working on an operating system that is not multithreaded.

"A 16-bit JVM has been a huge hole in the technology," Fitzgerald said.

Internet Explorer could still be the first Windows 3.1 Web browser to actually incorporate Java support. Netscape Communications has pledged to include Java in Navigator for Windows 3.1, but has not announced a release date for the browser.

Today, Microsoft also unveiled a Web site called Microsoft Gallery for Java, which will house Java class libraries for developers. The class libraries are the basic building blocks required to put together Java applets, providing developers with basic functions related to multimedia, database access, applet persistence, and user interfaces.

According to Fitzgerald, the class libraries will make life easier on developers by expanding the limited amount of code provided by Sun Microsystems. Netscape has made similar efforts to expand Java libraries with a collection of code called the Internet Foundation Classes.

"It's a cool language that everybody's totally jazzed about, but it's very limited right now," Fitzgerald said.

The libraries were licensed by Microsoft from a number of Java developers, including Dimension X, Intel, and Aimtech.