Java-free XP has Canadian developer worried

Microsoft’s recent decision not to include Java tools in its forthcoming XP operating system already has one Calgary developer running scared.

World Wide Quote, a financial information Web company, is concerned it will lose users. Dean Schuiteman, executive vice-president, said the company’s site was written in Java and relies on the programming language for users to navigate its features and windows.

Microsoft said in a statement that the XP version of Internet Explorer will support Java, but only after a patch has been downloaded and installed. “Not all of our users understand the Web and it’s not an easy thing for them to download,” said Schuiteman.

“(Microsoft) is not completely blocking (Java), they’re just creating one little hindrance to direct more people to come within a completely Microsoft environment,” he added. “They force companies, and they force users too.”

While Java has never been a “cakewalk” for World Wide Quote, Schuiteman said his company has managed to survive the language’s travails and produce a working site.

The Microsoft decision can be directly traced back to a three-year-old lawsuit launched by Java creator Sun Microsystems Inc. The suit was based on Sun allegations that Microsoft had created a version of Java that would run only in Windows environments. In a settlement reached in January, Microsoft agreed not to license new versions of the language.

As part of its .Net strategy, the Redmond, Wash., company has written another language to compete with Java called C#.

Schuiteman said his company may have to redesign its financial site in C# – in fact, Stan Mitranic, one of the firm’s developers, said he would actually prefer to write in it. But there would be tremendous cost involved with new training and development.

Schuiteman’s complaint that his users will be unable or unwilling to download a Java patch in the meantime could be moot, according to a Giga Information Group analyst. Rob Enderle said sites written in either Java script or C# will require initial downloads in order to run in an XP environment. “That does mean it’s consistent across the competing technologies,” he observed.

Microsoft, however, will have the advantage of home turf. They will be able to develop fixes for both C# and Java within XP while the operating system is in development. Sun will not have that luxury for its Java updates. “Sun is going to have to do all the quality control work and that’s very difficult to do when you really don’t know what the roadmap is for Internet Explorer,” said Enderle.

The Microsoft decision may have also tainted the perception of Java, he said. “For a lot of folks, perception is 99 per cent of their reality. The way this is being played, Java is looking like the wrong thing you want to be on if, in fact, you’re developing for an IE audience.”

Java was already being marginalized before the Microsoft move, he added, and is more common for server-side applications than desktop browsers.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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