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MS serves Java for Mac

Microsoft releases a beta version of its Java Virtual Machine for the Macintosh that will let finally let Explorer for the Mac users run applets and may improve the company's reputation for cross-platform support.

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Microsoft (MSFT) today released a beta version of its Java Virtual Machine for the Macintosh that will let finally let Explorer for the Mac users run applets and may improve the company's reputation for cross-platform support.

Microsoft's JVM powers Java applets that run through its Internet Explorer 3.0 browser, as well as standalone Java applications that don't require a Java Virtual Machine. Already, the Microsoft Virtual Machine, which was codeveloped by Metrowerks, is winning applause from leading Java developers, including Marimba and Dimension X, who plan to bundle the engine with their products.

Although Java is touted as a platform-independent language, until now, the best Java engines have been built for Windows 95 and Unix. Other engines for the Macintosh from Netscape Communications, Sun Microsystems, and Apple Computer have suffered from stability and performance problems.

And Netscape, IBM, and Microsoft are only now getting around to offering Java support on Windows 3.1, still the most popular desktop operating system.

The Microsoft-Metrowerks is attracting the endorsements of independent software developers, some of whom say they haven't been able to ship their Java applications on the Mac because Java engines available up until now have run so badly.

"Today, it's probably the most stable virtual machine we know of," said Arthur van Hoff, chief technology officer at Marimba. "The Netscape Java Virtual Machine is in the browser so you can't write a top-level application with it. The Sun and Apple ones have never had enough testing."

Marimba will offer an alpha version of its Bongo visual development tool for the Mac later this month, using the Microsoft-Metrowerks Java Virtual Machine. The company's Castanet solution, which automatically broadcasts software and content to users' desktops, will also include Microsoft's Java engine.

Van Hoff said that Marimba ultimately expects to switch over to Apple's Java engine simply because it will be bundled into the Mac OS.

Another developer, Dimension X, also plans to bundle the Microsoft-Metrowerks Virtual Machine with two of its products, Liquid Motion Pro and Liquid Reality, according to Dimension X Karl Jacob. The products are expected to be available for the Macintosh by mid-December.

"It's better, faster, more stable," Jacob said. "We've been trying to get Liquid Motion Pro up and running on one of the Java Virtual Machines for four months. [The Microsoft JVM] is the one that has gotten the most stable the fastest. As a developer I have to gravitate toward the best solution on whichever platform."

Users can download the Java Virtual Machine from Microsoft's Web site. It comes bundled with Explorer 3.0 for the Mac, but can be used to run applets within regular productivity applications as well.

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