Sun, Microsoft Bring Java Battle to Court

Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems, Inc. brought their dispute over Java to the courtroom this week, but both companies know the real battleground is in the technology arena.

Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems, Inc. brought their dispute over Java to the courtroom this week, but both companies know the real battleground is in the technology arena.

And users are expected to reap the benefits.

“I certainly think we could do without the haggling, but I expect that the competition is going to be wonderful for me,” said Guy Cobb, operations manager at First Tennessee National Corp. in Memphis. “I expect everyone will benefit in the technology from the two going at each other’s throats.”

Sun went to court this week to stop Microsoft from using the Java logo; the broader suit over whether Microsoft violated its Java license is still pending.

The marketplace battle centers on which company will have the most popular virtual machine and which company will have the most popular application development tool.

Probably most important is the question of whether developers will follow Microsoft’s lead and build Java-based Windows applications, or whether they will build cross-platform applications and challenge Microsoft’s Windows reign.

“Microsoft has decided to tailor Java to work better on Windows, and by doing that it will hurt the whole platform-independent premise. That definitely is a threat to Java,” said Colin Mahony, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. “The question is, Will developers follow them down that road?”

They won’t, if Sun has anything to say about it.

Because Microsoft currently has the fastest Java Virtual Machine and the most popular development tool, Visual J++, Sun executives are speeding along their technology development.

Gina Centoni, group product manager for Sun’s Java platform, said Sun will release a new just-in-time compiler in a couple of weeks, called Sun’s Java Virtual Machine, that is as fast as Microsoft’s.

And she added that this summer’s planned release of the Hot Spot Virtual Machine is expected to make Java, which has been plagued by its lack of speed, run as fast as C++ native code.

“This is good. Sun is learning how to play with the big boys,” said Brian McGuire, director of Internet administration at Econometrics Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.

“Sun knows it only has one shot at this, and they’re doing pretty well, so far. They’re getting good products out there, and they’re teaming up with all these other companies,” he said.

Microsoft’s position is that Java is a great language for building Windows applications.

Microsoft is debuting Java classes for its Active Data Objects database at the end of this quarter. The classes were designed to give developers easier access to the high-level database interface. And Microsoft is adding Java classes to the upcoming Windows NT 5.0 to help Java developers access the NT directory.

Many observers said the teaming is keeping Sun in the game. Sun is partnering with IBM, Oracle Corp. and Netscape Communications Corp.

Oracle and Sun are working on Java technology for network computers. Netscape is working with Sun on a Java-based World Wide Web browser. And Sun and IBM are working together to build JavaBeans and software that will manage Java applications.

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