MS money bodes well for Java: architect

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s surprise rapprochement with Microsoft Corp. is good news for the Java platform and good news for developers, a local software architect says.

Reece Robinson, an architect at Solution 6 in Auckland, says the decision of the two erstwhile protagonists to settle their differences over Java was unexpected, but positive.

Microsoft agreed to pay Sun almost $US2 billion to settle antitrust claims, patent suits and to license Sun technology. Robinson says both platforms should improve without the distraction of Sun and Microsoft at loggerheads.

"It was a bit of a shock, but having read a bit more about it it's a bit of a relief as well that it's kind of over with now," Robinson says.

He's pleased that Microsoft will now continue to support Java on Windows, and isn't concerned that Redmond might effectively fork the Java platform by running a less than fully-compatible version of Java -- or its .Net clone, J# -- on .Net's common language runtime (CLR) rather than the Java virtual machine (JVM).

Java is established enough for developers to demand implementations that comply with Sun's Java specification, he says. "I think Java's been out on its own long enough to establish a good reputation."

In fact, Robinson expects the settlement to result in some fixes to Java's weaknesses. In particular, he hopes to see UI development tools that are better than the "rotten" Swing library. He also expects an updated version of J# that complies with a more recent version of the Java spec.

Robinson agrees that the settlement may reflect an acceptance by Sun that developers are successfully using .Net and that Java will need to work well with .Net in the future.

"Sun have been trying to claw back some of the ease of development that the Microsoft platform has had for some time," he says. He believes Sun has failed to catch up, so the decision to improve collaboration between the two platforms makes sense.

A longtime Java user, Robinson's recent experience of .Net has him convinced that both are appropriate development choices. They're very close already, he says: a recent project to port a Java application to C# on .Net turned out to be a simple one-hour exercise.

He expects developers to remain religious about their preferred software choice, but says companies can select development tools based upon their requirements.

"I'm an architect, so I would choose whatever's best for the project. It's really a case-by-case basis," he says.

In a mixed environment, Java is probably the only realistic option. For a Windows-only project, "you'd almost be silly not to go with .Net," he says.

"From a business perspective, you've got to be pragmatic." Meanwhile, Java creator James Gosling reacted to concern from the Java community about the deal by defending it in an article on the Newsforge Web site. The agreement is good for Java and good for Sun, and doesn't mean Sun has sold out, Gosling wrote.

"We have not sold our soul to the dark side. We haven't overnight turned into mindless lap dogs. We've had a lot of experience with Microsoft over the years, and it has made us very cautious," he says.

Sun will use a "significant portion" of the settlement money to benefit Java developers and to advance the platform, Gosling says. "Relax. Have a little faith."

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