It seems as though Sun is getting tough on Microsoft at the moment and is, for once, calling the shots on how to use Java. Judging from the remarks made by Scott McNealy (see page 16) on what Java is going to do to Microsoft, we are in for a cracking spring full of scathing remarks and techno-threats.
Sun says Microsoft doesn't want to play ball and insists on using its own RNI (Raw Native Interface) to play java on its browsers instead of using the (Sun-designed) Java Native Interface (JNI) which Sun claims is the standard. Of course, Microsoft could never be accused of trying to introduce its own proprietary methods into this industry, or at least that's what the MS officials will tell you.
Ever since the NC was first mentioned, McNealy and Oracle's Larry Ellison have been dying to knock Bill Gates off his pedestal, and Java may be the tool they do it with.
Microsoft is saying that it was forced to write RNI because a JNI didn't exist and consequently any programs or applets written for the JDK V1.1 were useless because a compatible interface wasn't available. But why has Microsoft created its own version of the interface, why didn't it simply wait for Sun to complete the job?
In true marketing style the bods at Microsoft insist that they love Java (although they'd prefer you to use Active X wherever possible) and are very eager to make sure everyone understands that Java does not belong to anyone. It's free, it's open and it has no favourites.
Internet product manager Jeremy Gittins, Microsoft UK's very own Gates look-a-like, told PC Week that "we need to be adult about this ..." Right on Jerry, but will Sun do the same?
McNealy, Ellison and, recently, Jim Barksdale, CEO of Netscape, have teamed up to adopt an anti-Microsoft stance that looks as though it's all about Java implementation, but is probably a lot more personal. The chummy trio make no secret of their dislike for Gates, his team and that pesky technology - Active X. For once, Microsoft has been caught on the hop and is in a tricky position:
If Microsoft agrees to implement the JNI, instead of its own RNI, it will be an admission that it took matters into its own hands and tried to fix something that wasn't broken. Even if it agrees to use both the RNI and the JNI, it will provoke confusion and criticism in the industry with many developers asking which interface they should write to for best results.
If Microsoft doesn't agree and sticks to the RNI, it will be sending out its most arrogant message yet: we can use Java, but we ain't gonna do it like the rest of you peasants!
There's a real problem here because politics have slipped its way into the equation coupled with some very large egos.
The coming weeks will be interesting, particularly in view of what Gittins has said. Acting grown up about this may mean kissing and making up and could result in an admission of some sort from the mighty M. But Sun must act responsibly and stop treating Java like some prize toy. If we end up with one big kid pulling one end and a whole load of midgets pulling at the other, there'll be tears.
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