Analysts: Visual J# .Net tool to have little impact

The new Visual J# .Net tool that Microsoft Corp. launched Monday at its TechEd 2002 Europe conference in Barcelona, Spain, isn’t expected to have a huge impact on corporate IT departments using Java, analysts said.

Visual J#, which is pronounced “J sharp,” will allow developers to write applications using the Java language syntax, but those applications will be able to run on only Microsoft’s .Net framework and Windows operating system. So, applications written with the Visual J# .Net tool won’t be able to use key Java class libraries or Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) technologies, such as Enterprise JavaBeans, Java Server Pages or servlets.

Instead, Microsoft merely adds Java to the list of more than 20 languages supported in its new Visual Studio .Net development tool set, which was released in February.

“This is fulfilling our philosophical belief that we support as many languages as possible on .Net,” said Prashant Sridharan, a Visual Studio product manager at Microsoft.

But part of Java’s allure for developers is its potential to run on a wide range of operating systems. By contrast, Microsoft recommends that its tools be used to build applications optimized to run on Windows. Developers who write applications for other operating systems are advised to connect applications through XML-based Web services, which Microsoft heavily promotes as the key to interoperability.

Microsoft’s new Visual J# tool may interest developers who previously used the software maker’s Visual J++ tool to write applications designed to run in a Microsoft environment, said Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Most developers who used Visual J++ to build standard Java applications have since moved to other tools, he said.

“For a truly portable Java application, a developer would need to stay away from Visual J# and use a pure Java development tool,” Gilpin said. He added that he doesn’t think Microsoft is trying to compete against major Java tool kits such as Borland Software Corp.’s JBuilder.

Gilpin predicted that Java developers who write applications that require strong graphical user interfaces may consider using Visual J# .Net to write the front ends of their applications, which typically run on Windows.

“This is for developers who love Java but they want to develop on the Microsoft platform for .Net. If they need to deploy to J2EE, this isn’t going to do it for them,” said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

But Murphy cautioned that developers will need to learn the new .Net framework in order to work with Visual J# .Net. “The language, the syntax – that’s the easy part,” he said. “The hard part is learning all the libraries.”

Developers also will want to note a couple of key syntactic differences they’ll find with Visual J# .Net, Sridharan said. He said that Microsoft added the word “delegate” to allow developers to pass methods between objects and that it gave programmers the ability to create attributes for objects.

“But fundamentally, the core syntax is the same,” Sridharan said.

Sridharan said developers will be able to open their old Visual J++ projects inside of Visual J#. He said that Visual J++ allowed developers to expose Java components as Component Object Model (COM) objects. With .Net, a COM interoperability feature allows developers to work with their old COM objects, he said.

The standard edition of Visual J# .Net sells for US$109, Sridharan said. The professional edition of the full Visual Studio tool set costs US$1,079, or US$549 for an upgrade.

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