Developers decry Sun-Microsoft war over Java

Java users speak out on maintaining dream of cross-platform app development

Oct 10, 1997 -- As Sun Microsystems and Microsoft Corp. prepare to slug out their Java war in court, developers are fervently hoping the cross-platform application-development dream represented by Java does not end up the ultimate casualty.

Windows developers who are happy with Microsoft's implementations of Java, and Sun backers who cry foul over the company's perceived language tampering, seem to concur that in order for Java's momentum to continue, the companies need to bury the hatchet.

"There is a danger that this fight will escalate, and that could put off developers such as ourselves who will fear using the language if the two camps are going different ways," said Eric Carlson, chief technology officer at Silknet, a Manchester, NH-based company.

Many industry observers have predicted for some time that the Sun-Microsoft war concerning Java would escalate into a lawsuit. And as early as this past August, Sun threatened to sue Microsoft.

"While Sun may appear at first glance to be acting in defense of a proprietary technology rather than an open standard, in actual fact the very viability of a standard-reference Java implementation practically requires Sun to vigorously defend Java," said Peter Kust, a consultant at ITRW, in Houston. "I hate to see issues like this get tossed to the lawyers, but I don't see where Sun had many alternatives."

For many developers, maintaining Java's future is the main issue.

"I don't want that momentum endangered," said Gene Rooney, president of Sage Solutions, a developer in San Francisco, CA. "If Microsoft's commitment, which is wavering as it is, becomes more limited, then Sun should make sure it complies."

Other developers agree.

"If developers want to stay cross-platform and browser-independent, which most Java developers do, they can simply not use the [32-bit Windows] specifics that are offered by Microsoft tools," said Scott Milener, founder of BulletProof, a Los Gatos, CA-based company that builds JDesignerPro, a Java intranet-application-development system. "Although powerful, Microsoft has no means to force developers to use something they don't want to."

Microsoft's continual downplaying of Java's potential as a platform, and thus a competitor to Windows, is working, one developer said.

"Microsoft is making another self-fulfilling prophecy here," the developer said. "If Java programs utilizing full power of the Java API cannot be run on half of the available virtual machines, Java will be reduced to just another language."


Copyright © 1997 IDG Communications, Inc.

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