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Microsoft & Sun conclude Java deal (1996)

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Java is key component to object-oriented effort named `Jakarta'

On March 12, Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems announced that they had concluded an agreement that will allow Microsoft to develop and maintain the reference implementation of Java for all Windows platforms, including Windows 95 and the Windows NT operating system. Microsoft intends to use Java in its Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 Web browser, which incorporates a high-performance, just-in-time (JIT) compiler, and an integrated development tool for Java.

In addition, Microsoft demonstrated a number of Java-compatible technologies, collectively code-named `Jakarta.' Microsoft intends to integrate the Java language with industry-standard component object model (COM) objects through its ActiveX Technologies for the Internet and PC. As part of the Jakarta package, Microsoft will develop a version of the Internet Explorer for the Apple Macintosh that will allow Macintosh users to run Java applets over the World Wide Web. Microsoft plans to create a high-productivity development tool for Java based on its Developer Studio Technology that includes a built-in mechanism for managing teams of developers, as well as integrated project management, high-speed compilation, editing, and browsing.

Brad Silverberg, Microsoft's senior vice president of Internet platforms and tools, said, "Integrating the Java language with COM is something our customers and ISV partners think is extremely important. It brings a whole new dimension to Java: a clear path for integration with existing applications, systems, and technologies... (programmers) don't have to start over from scratch to take advantage of Java."

Capturing the interest of Windows applications developers and bringing them to Java is no minor event. Windows continues to be the most widely-used desktop operating system in the country with an installed base of approximately 100 million.

Microsoft's finalization of its agreement with Sun to license Java (negotiations began last December) and its adoption of Java technology -- both as customer and custodian of source code -- underscores the importance of the desktop-Internet market to both companies and to those who develop desktop software.

An analyst with the Gartner Group characterized the proliferation of technologies based on Java as "the beginning of a change in the playing field." What is most important about Java is not the products -- individual applications or applets -- developers build with it, but its capacity to maintain platform independence.

As Microsoft and other companies increasingly use Java technology to boost their proprietary products, the commercial arena for platform-independent applications becomes larger and larger. This does not mean, however, that builders of proprietary technology for the desktop market won't continue to make their own game plans.

Bob Muglia, vice president of development tools at Microsoft, summed up the agreement's importance to Microsoft at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference held in San Francisco that week by saying, "Jakarta technology will provide a great way for our developer customers to create innovative applications for the Web...We intend to be the premier supplier of Java-compatible tools to Internet developers." --by Erica Liederman