The Visual J# .Net tool that Microsoft launched last week isn't expected to have a huge impact on corporate IT departments using Java, analysts said.
Visual J# (pronounced J-sharp) will allow developers to write applications using the Java language syntax, but those applications will be able to run only on 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 and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) technologies, such as Enterprise JavaBeans, Java Server Pages and Java servlets.
Regardless, Microsoft has added Java to the list of more than 20 languages supported in its Visual Studio .Net development tool set, which shipped 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.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Microsoft recommends that its tools be used to build applications optimised to run on Windows. Developers who write applications for other operating systems are advised to connect them through XML-based Web services, which Microsoft is promoting heavily as the key to interoperability.
But part of Java's allure for developers has been its potential to run on a wide range of operating systems, so it remains to be seen how great an impact Visual J# will have on corporate IT departments.
"Microsoft was able to get a small amount of market share with its J++ tool, and those customers stand a great risk of seeing Microsoft abandon Java," said Simon Phipps, chief technology evangelist at Sun Microsystems. "Microsoft is making a last-ditch attempt to migrate those customers over to the closed .Net environment, and now this tool is just a bridge for that very limited community. People who want to gain the true value of Java are using the open tools from the wide range of suppliers who stick to the Java standards."
A Microsoft spokesman predicted that 12 to 15 per cent of all Java developers will use Visual J# .Net within a year. But Thomas Murphy, an analyst at US-based Meta Group, said that's unlikely, because some users distrust Microsoft in the Java space.
"If, in the future, 15 per cent of the Java market was J#, it would only be because Microsoft customers have migrated from other languages, rather than anyone from the Java community going the other way," Phipps predicted.
Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachussets-based Giga Information Group, said Microsoft's new Visual J# .Net tool may interest developers who formerly used the software maker's Visual J++ tool to write applications designed to run in a Microsoft environment. He said most developers who used Visual J++ to build standard Java applications have moved to other tools.
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 largely run on Windows.
But Murphy cautioned that developers will need to learn the new .Net framework to work with Visual J# .Net.