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Microsoft licenses Java (1995)

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Maker of world's most popular OS to add Java capability to Windows 95 Web browser


On December 7, Sun Microsystems announced Microsoft Corp. had signed an agreement to license Sun's Java programming language and source code for the HotJava Worldwide Web browser. Microsoft plans to implement Java in its Windows NT and Windows 95 operating systems.

Although the announcement came as a surprise to many, licensing Java was the only logical next step for Microsoft, which until recently has been plugging its own network and network services package, the Microsoft Network, as part of the Windows 95 operating system.

In an interview with SunWorld Online, Jon Kannegaard, recently appointed chief operating officer of Sun's Java Products Division, said: "Microsoft's licensing Java makes Java the de facto standard for internetworking applications... [The agreement with Microsoft] puts the Java environment in everyone's hands. The installed base of applications that can interoperate increases exponentially."

One of Java's greatest advantages is that it allows programmers to write for any kind of device. "The old way, the `closed system' approach is the way of the past," Kannegaard said. "With Java on all platforms on the network, we really have an open systems environment for the first time."

Ruth Hennigar, general manager of the Java Products group emphasized the improvements Java will bring to the task of programmers. "Java creates a `write once, run anywhere' programming environment. One of the most time-consuming tasks for programmers was creating a program for one OS and then having to port it to countless others."

Goodbye LiveScript, hello JavaScript
The Microsoft announcement came as the crowning deal at the end of a very full week for Sun and Java, a week that saw major agreements signed with Silicon Graphics, Macromedia, Adobe Systems, Sybase, and IBM. Said Kannegaard: "We're past the point of critical mass now [with Java]. With the new class libraries available, we've raised the level of the platform that programmers will be able to work to. Everyone will have higher levels of functionality."

Sun and Netscape announced that Netscape's high-level object scripting "LiveScript" would add Java capability and now be called "JavaScript." JavaScript is touted as a language designed to let non-programmers create Java applets. Nearly 30 vendors (including Apple, DEC, HP, SCO, and SGI) pledged to support JavaScript, which is being compared to Microsoft's Visual Basic.

Netscape said it will publish the specifications for JavaScript, a step the company was unwilling to take with LiveScript. Sun owns the JavaScript name.

IBM said it would create a Java-enabled browser for Windows 3.1 that will be available in February 1996. IBM's also porting Java to AIX, Windows 3.1 and OS/2 and incorporating it into IBM products. --by Erica Liederman, with additional reporting by Michael O'Connell