Microsoft to unveil C#, Java's competitor

But several users said the introduction of the Microsoft development language (pronounced "C sharp") is off key.

Microsoft officials claim that the language will simplify the building of components for the Microsoft.Net framework that can evoke web services from applications written in different languages and running on different operating systems such as rival Solaris. Microsoft officials declined to say when it would ship.

"C# is a way of graphically building applications and components for web services," said Tony Goodhew, a Microsoft product manager. "This solves the problem that customers actually have; they want interoperability between platforms, not the same code running on all platforms."

Writing code once and being able to run it on any platform has been one of the prime promises of Java, a development language promoted by Microsoft rivals IBM and Sun.

Microsoft officials wouldn't disclose how C# fits into the .Net software infrastructure that the software company announced last week.

Some users were sceptical.

Web-based procurement outsourcer Outpurchase.com, based in California, began developing its application with Microsoft tools but is shifting to Java because of the cost of training developers on Microsoft's Distributed Component Object Model, said Rusty Franz, vice president of engineering.

"If (C#) were here today, I would jump on the bandwagon, but it's not even announced yet," said Franz. "It's too little, too late. If I'm going to make a technology change, I cannot wait around a year for something to come out."

"Our desktop will stay Microsoft, but in our web environment, we have to worry about interoperability and developing across platforms, and Java provides that," said Pat Schmid, a software engineer at Bently Nevada, a machinery services company in Nevada. "The problem is that there is a significant learning curve every time Microsoft comes out with a new version of something."

Idaho Power is heavily invested in Microsoft technologies but is shifting to Java for web-based applications that run on both Windows NT and its mainframe, said Rob Eamon, systems architect at the electric company.

"We will take a look at C#, but I cannot see a compelling reason to learn another language or to move from Java and Visual Basic," he said.

Like Java, C# will include new security features and "garbage collection", which is an application's ability to free up memory allocated to run an application when the application shuts down, Microsoft officials said.

Kyle Mossman, a database administrator at Alaska Airlines in Seattle, said garbage collection is an important feature and needs to be improved in Microsoft's C++ language, but it isn't compelling enough for him to shift to C#.

"They already have too many development environments as it is," he said. "We're straight (Microsoft Internet Information Server), but we don't want to dump what we're doing and jump onto another development environment."

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