Microsoft has once again upped the ante in its war against Java by introducing so-called 'scriptlets' for front end Web development.
The move follows in the wake of last week?s open letter - jointly signed by the software giant, Intel, Compaq and Digital Equipment - protesting at Sun?s attempts to control the direction of Java, despite its decision to hand the specification over to the International Standards Organisation.
The introduction of 'scriptlets', which are similar in nature to Java Beans components, would appear to be part of a smoke and mirrors campaign by Microsoft.
Its apparent aim is to position the technology as a potential cross-platform rival to Java, which, the company claims, does not fulfil its promise of portability. Scriptlets, however, unlike Java, can only deal with the presentation layer of a Web site application.
But some observers, including Robin Bloor, managing director of Bloor Research, were sceptical of the impact scriptlets would have on Java.
?Microsoft?s going to spend the rest of its life trying to kill Java," said Bloor. "It?s deeply hurt by the 100% Pure Java Initiative, but trying to stop Java is like King Canute trying to stop the tide. This is simply a diversion, a way to try and deflect Java, but it?s not a Java killer. It?s about providing nice presentation on your Web site, not developing cross-platform applications. Java is about portability on things other than Microsoft platforms,? he said.
But Mike Pryke-Smith, Microsoft?s Internet tools product manager, said Java was not portable. ?The failure of Java today is that it doesn?t run on any Virtual Machine on any box. Java is not cross-platform," he claimed. "This leaves it simply as an important language to write specific Mac and Windows applications that take advantage of the system resources."
He continued: "Scriptlets, however, which are a mixture of Dynamic HTML [Microsoft?s implementation of version 4.0 of the HTML standard] and scripting languages such as VBScript, are better because they are portable today and are a much more viable solution for building applications.?
He added that users could invoke objects supporting Microsoft's Common Object Model from scriptlets and could also hook them up to ActiveX controls when building a Web application, although ActiveX was more platform-specific.
?Scriptlets are intended to give Web page and content developers the same benefits as comparative developers get with ActiveX. There is an analogy between scriptlets and ActiveX controls because they both provide a set of components that can be reused. However, while you can port ActiveX controls over to different platforms, you need to recompile to get them to work because they?re binary code and so machine-specific,? he explained.
Microsoft plans to develop scriptlets itself, but also hopes to encourage third party developers to build their own too. Users would take the pre-written components from a palette of scriptlets and drag and drop them into the package they are developing.
As a result, the supplier will provide support for scriptlets in version 4.0 of its Explorer browser, which is due to ship on 30 September.
Programmers will also be able to build scriptlets using Microsoft?s Front Page Web development tools and Visual InterDev 98, which will be unveiled next week at the company's Professional Developers' Conference in San Diego.
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