Microsoft last week made a firm development commitment to Java in a move which will go some way to silencing its critics.
The strategy, unveiled at the SDWest (Software Development West) developer conference in San Francisco, includes a new version of the Microsoft Virtual Machine. The software, to be called Microsoft VM 4.0, represents a three-step jump in version numbers, bringing it in line with the next release of Internet Explorer.
The most important new feature of the package will be full integration between Microsoft's ActiveX component technology and Sun's JavaBeans.
According to Mike Pryke-Smith, Internet tools product manager at Microsoft UK: "A JavaBeans control can be used in any place where an ActiveX control would previously have been embedded."
Microsoft said its new strategy will furnish Java with tools and technologies that provide the power to develop "great cross-platform applications" in demanding enterprise environments.
The strategy represents a radically different stance for Microsoft, which only a few months ago stood accused of attempting to steer Java in the direction of Windows.
At SDWest the company also announced a number of Java-related technologies aimed at helping developers create what it sees as "the fastest, highest quality, most broadly compatible Java applications possible". The company plans to offer tools that support all parts of the Java programming environment.
Among these will be new GUI class libraries for Java called the Microsoft Application Foundation Classes (AFC) for Java, replacing Sun's AWT library which is included with the Java Development Kit (JDK).
Brad Silverberg, senior vice president of the applications and Internet client group at Microsoft, said: "AFC lets them (software developers) write less code and get a better application, without sacrificing support for multiple platforms."
Another key plank of the strategy is Enterprise Libraries, a suite of Java class libraries encompassing data access, directory services, transaction services, management services and the ability for Java applications to interact with DCOM (Distributed COM).
Microsoft has previously told PC Week that while Java was a good cross-platform tool, it made an ideal platform for developing Windows applications.
Although this may be true, the company is now signalling broad support for developers who wish to create Java applications. It is also supporting JavaBeans. This is certainly good news for the developer community who, until now, have battled over whether to adopt ActiveX or JavaBeans in their applications. About time, Microsoft.
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