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Microsoft to show off Java development tool in court (1998)

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San Jose, CA (August 31, 1998) -- Microsoft Corp. will demonstrate in a federal district court here today how its Java development tools allow software makers to write Java programs that run on Windows as well as other operating systems, the head of Microsoft's developer relations group said here this morning.

The demonstration will be part of two separate tutorials that Microsoft and rival Sun Microsystems Inc. have been asked to present to Judge Ronald Whyte, who is presiding over a lawsuit Sun filed against Microsoft here last October.

Sun, for its part, plans to demonstrate that the same Microsoft development tool, called Visual J++, encourages developers to write applets that run only on Windows, said Todd Nielsen, general manager of Microsoft's Developer Relations Group. The parties were required yesterday to reveal to each other what will be contained in their tutorials, he said.

In its lawsuit, Sun alleges that Microsoft violated the terms of a Java licensing contract by implementing an "impure" version of Java in Windows 98 and in its Java development tools. Microsoft did this, according to Sun, to disrupt Java's cross-platform capabilities, which Microsoft sees as a threat to the hegemony of its Windows operating system.

Microsoft's demonstration today is designed to show that Visual J++ is not a threat to Java's cross-platform development capabilities.

Visual J++ works in two modes: one that allows developers to build Java applets that run on any operating system, and another mode for creating applets that take advantage of features specific to Windows operating systems, such as its multiple font types and support for certain hardware products, Nielsen said.

Nielsen acknowledged that applets built using J++ in Windows-specific mode will not run on other operating systems. "If you're using Windows-specific features, (the applet) won't run on another platform," he said.

But because developers can use the same toolkit to build a cross-platform version of the applet, it does not threaten Java's cross-platform ability, Nielson said.

Microsoft supports Java's cross-platform compatibility, and expects developers to use the software tool to create both "generic" and Windows-specific applets, he said.

Sun has filed for a preliminary injunction requiring Microsoft to alter the Java products it ships in compliance with its specifications for Java. Hearings about that injunction are set to begin September 8.

Microsoft says all the Java products it ships comply with Sun's Java licensing agreement specifications and pass muster with Sun's Java compatibility tests. Windows 98 will run Java applets built using Sun's own Java tools, and Microsoft's Java tools can be used to develop applets that will run on any operating system that has a Java virtual machine that conforms to Sun's specifications.


Java Native Interface

At issue in the case is whether the technology in Microsoft's developer kit that allows developers to build Windows-specific applications is required to fall in line with Sun's specifications laid out in its licensing contract, Nielson said.

That technology is called a Java Native Interface (JNI) -- a software layer that sits between a Java applet and the operating system, allowing the applet to "tunnel down" and take advantage of functionality native to that particular platform, Nielson said.

"All the hoopla about whether Microsoft's Java is cross-platform compatible has gone by the wayside," he said. "Now everything is about native interfaces."

Sun offers its own JNI for Windows, but Microsoft says its own JNI, called J/Direct, is better, because it allows users to take a fuller advantage of the features in Windows.

Microsoft says the JNI was not specified in the licensing agreement it signed with Sun, and Sun should not be able to dictate how Microsoft's JNI works.

So long as Microsoft provides in Visual J++ the ability for software developers to build "pure" Java applications -- those that do not employ a JNI -- it should be free to include its own JNI that allows developers to take advantage of the Windows-specific features, Nielson said.

"That's what competition is all about," he said.

Today's tutorials are designed to allow the companies to present their versions of what Java is and how it works. However, it appears each side plans to use the time as an opportunity to bolster its case.

With its own demonstration of Microsoft's Visual J++, Sun plans to try to show the court how the software tool encourages software developers to write applications that are specific to Windows, according to Nielson.

The tutorials are each due to begin at 1 p.m. PST, and will last for two hours.