Microsoft Releases Proprietary Java Kit

A free tool, called the Developer Tools Interoperability Kit, was made available by Microsoft Corp. so the company’s proprietary tweaking of the Java language can be incorporated into third-party compilers and virtual machines.

J/Direct API, Java/COM and Delegates have been a part of Microsoft's compiler and Java virtual machine (JVM). With the new kit, developers can add these to other JVMs to achieve the highest possible compatibility with the Windows platform. John Montgomery, a product manager at Microsoft, says this technology will help put a friendlier Java face on top of a quicker and more robust application, such as one designed using COBOL.

J/Direct helps developers call any Win32 API or DLL file directly from the Java language. The Java/COM facility provides automatic, bidirectional mapping of COM and Java objects. Finally, Delegates brings an event-handling capability to Java that is more common in languages such as C++, Modula or Pascal.

Montgomery says 72 percent of Java developers, who develop for Windows, use native Windows code -- completely ignoring the cross-platform capability. He says what Microsoft is trying to do is provide Java with capabilities it doesn't have, by using those capabilities in other language apps such as C++ and COBOL.

Still, Montgomery admits that Java has some attributes that are unavailable in Microsoft's C++ code, such as garbage collection. When you use a C++ application, it allocates memory like any application, except it doesn't reverse the allocation of memory when you're finished. This bogs down the machine. Java’s garbage collection notices when an application isn't in use and automatically so it frees up the allocated memory. It's this relationship that Microsoft is trying to foster.

Microsoft mentions several times in its release that the kit provides greater interoperability between Java and operating systems other than Windows, although the company was unable to provide a clear explanation as to how it does this.

Dave Kelly, vice president of application strategies at Hurwitz Group Inc. (www.hurwitz.com), says that part of the announcement didn't make sense. Kelly says that out of the three pieces of the kit, Java/COM is the only one that would seem to have this capability because Microsoft has been able to port COM to the Unix platform. He says although all three could be used on another platform, he doubts any ISVs would actually be ready to use the kit for another operating system. The confusion about this matter is Microsoft's encouragement of the Java language on other platforms when that has clearly not been a part of Microsoft’s strategy in the past.

One function of the kit, Kelly speculates, is to not only get Java to perform better on Windows, but to get other developers to do Microsoft's work by designing the proprietary JVMs. "It's a clever ploy, especially if they were to lose the case against Sun," Kelly remarks. "This is going to continue to enrage other [pure Java] vendors."