Microsoft pitches interoperability at JavaOne

It will contribute sample .Net code to the Apache project

Five years after settling a bitter lawsuit with Sun Microsystems over the Java programming language, a Microsoft executive made the company's first-ever JavaOne keynote address Thursday.

The talk wasn't sexy -- the highlight was a demonstration of a stock trading application that could work in both Microsoft's .Net and Sun's Java environment -- but it was important to Java developers who have had a hard time making their software work properly on these two competing platforms.

Onstage, Microsoft Senior Director of Developer Platform Product Management Steven Martin conceded that while technology vendors may have agreed upon interoperable standards, when it came to actually writing code based on these standards, there were differences that made it hard for Java and .Net programs to work together. "The last mile of connectivity ... was left to you guys, " he told attendees.

Microsoft and Sun have been working for years on that last mile. On Thursday, they released a sample program showing developers how it's done. The software, a .Net version of IBM's StockTrader program, shows the developers the tricks they need to make their code interoperate in the real world.

Sun and Microsoft are contributing the StockTrader code to the open-source Apache project, the companies said Thursday. Technical specifications are "good," Martin said. "But tested interfaces with code samples are much better."

Microsoft's onstage StockTrader demonstration impressed Felipe "Gaucho" Vieira Silva, a software engineer with Netcetera, a software consulting firm that works for large financial institutions. "It's not easy to do this," he said in an interview after watching the keynote. "To make it work and to make it work fast and smoothly is really hard."

According to Silva, the acrimony between Microsoft and Sun has evaporated in recent years as the companies have realized that interoperability is critical to their success. "Interoperability is more important than products," he said.

Martin, whose team manages the .Net framework and Windows' application server, echoed those words. "There's nothing more important to our team when we think about the work we do than interoperability."

One of the reasons that Microsoft and Sun have focused on interoperability is because companies like Google are creating an emerging set of Web-based APIs that are starting to eclipse Java and .Net.

How technologies like Google Wave will interoperate with Java and .Net is unclear. Google is not a sponsor of JavaOne and the search giant has a minimal presence at this year's show.

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