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Who's Got the Edge: Java or C#?

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With Microsoft finally settling with Sun, I thought it was time that I report on what Microsoft is (or is not) doing with Java. As you probably know, Microsoft built one of the fastest Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) for Microsoft operating systems. The problem that Sun had with Microsoft’s JVM was that the JVM did not support Sun’s Java Native Interface (JNI) and Remote Method Invocation (RMI). By not supporting these cross- platform Java APIs, Microsoft was violating its agreement with Sun. If you look at the Sun/Microsoft dispute from a pro-Redmond point of view, you’d say that Microsoft was merely making Java run as fast as possible (on Microsoft systems), and Sun’s JNI and RMI APIs were far less efficient than Microsoft’s equivalents. If you look at the dispute from a cross-platform stance, then you’d say Microsoft was making it too easy to create Java applications that only ran on Windows. It’s very difficult to use Microsoft Visual J++ integrated development environment (IDE) to develop Java applications that run on other operating systems. That was in the past. What is Microsoft doing with Java now? Well, nothing. That is unless you look at Microsoft’s latest language: C#.

C# (pronounced C-sharp) is one of many languages that will work with Microsoft’s
.NET architecture. I won’t go into detail about .NET. But I do want to mention that at the center of .NET is Common Language Runtime (CLR), a set of operating-system services that provides runtime support for .NET programs. CLR is similar to a JVM, except instead of Java bytecode, CLR executes Microsoft intermediate language (MSIL) programs. C#, as well as its sister .NET language, are compiled to MSIL. What are the other languages? How does a short list of Visual Basic, JScript, C++, RPG, COBOL, and Java sound? That’s right, I said RPG and Java. It’s not that difficult for a system software company to create an MSIL compiler for its favorite language. ASNA has one for Visual RPG, and Rational Software is making one for Java. Sun’s strategy seemed to be to create a cross- platform development environment, while Microsoft’s strategy was to create a cross- language development environment.

Hello World, in English and American

Putting the other .NET languages aside, I will focus on C#. As it turns out, C# has many features similar to Java:

It’s interesting to note that the chief architect for C# was the project leader for Microsoft’s Windows Foundation Classes for Java (the ill-fated competitor to Sun’s Java

Foundation Classes). In fact, if you look at the Hello World examples in Figure 1, you’ll see that C# and Java are very similar.

Many of the C# keywords are exactly the same as Java’s—mainly because those keywords come from the common ancestor of C++. It’s curious to note, however, that where C# borrowed concepts from Java, the keywords were named differently. For instance, Java’s super, import, package, synchronized, and final keywords translate in C# as base, using, namespace, lock, and sealed. Keyword names aside, C# and Java are still very similar languages.

C#-er than Java

I spent seven years coding in C++ before I evolved to Java, and while I prefer Java to C++, there are some features of C++ that I miss. C# added many of those features I missed, such as enums, assertions, operator overloading, and the ability to pass parameters by value or by reference. C# also added a few handy features such as a decimal data type, a foreach loop, and the ability to treat primitives like objects. C#’s 128-bit decimal type is far more efficient that Java’s BigDecimal object. The foreach loop is a handy alternative to Java-style loops. C# also allows you to directly store primitive values—ints, floats, and doubles—into aggregate structures, whereas, in Java, you have to laboriously convert primitives to objects.

The Sharpest Blade Soon Dulls

If I were asked tomorrow to create a C# application, I would gladly do it, since C# gives me all the features that I’ve come to expect from Java with a few added goodies. But, I wonder, can I get a C# compiler for my Linux development environment? It would also be nice if I could then deploy that application to my AS/400. Will .NET’s architecture allow me to do that? There is no direct answer to these two questions. The quick answer is “No.” Microsoft advocates, however, will tell you that Microsoft .NET is an open standard under the control of ECMA, so potentially, companies (initially, perhaps, Hewlett-Packard) can create Microsoft .NET environments, complete with C# compilers and IDEs, for any platform. Microsoft pundits will tell you that Microsoft is three years away from a good working version of Microsoft .NET and, in the mean time, they won’t be developing it for any platforms but their own.

Don Denoncourt

Don Denoncourt is a freelance consultant. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

MC Press books written by Don Denoncourt available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Java Application Strategies for iSeries and AS/400 Java Application Strategies for iSeries and AS/400
Explore the realities of using Java to develop real-world OS/400 applications.
List Price $89.00

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