The new technology, dubbed Visual J#.Net, is a Java language tool designed to allow Java developers to build XML Web services and applications that will run exclusively on .Net.
However, the tool will not allow developers to build cross-platform Java applications, Microsoft said.
"We are delivering the Java language on the .Net framework," said Tony Goodhew, a Microsoft product manager. "If you are a developer and like the Java language, you can now build XML Web services in the context of .Net." In addition to the .Net Framework, he said, applications will also work with .Net server software, Microsoft .Net My Services (formerly called Hailstorm) and other implementations of the .Net technology, he said.
A download of the beta version of Visual J#.Net will be available from Microsoft's download centre, Goodhew said. The second beta version will be available in the first quarter of 2002.
The beta of Visual J#.Net is intended to be used as an add-on to Visual Studio.Net, Microsoft's application development software suite, which is scheduled for final release later this year.
The software maker has touted its new technology, called Common Language Runtime (CLR), as a means for developers to create .Net applications using a variety of development languages. CLR supports more than 20 languages, including C++, Perl, Visual Basic and Microsoft's new C# language. It allows developers to write code in those languages from within Visual Studio.Net.
By providing support for Java, Microsoft will making any application written to Version 1.1.4 of Java compatible with .Net. However, applications built in J#.Net will not run on a Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
Java's creator, Sun Microsystems, expressed scepticism about the idea. Many Java applications rely on a newer version of Java that is more advanced than the version Microsoft is using, said Sun.
"As far as we can make out, they are saying that they will release some kind of capability for a Java language program to be supported inside.Net," said David Harrah, spokesman for Sun's Java group. "The next logical question is, 'will developers go for this'?"
Harrah speculated that the announcement points to some pressure on Microsoft to support Java programmers. According to research by International Data Corporation, the popularity of Java among developers has been growing steadily.
In January, Microsoft ended a three-year-old legal battle with Sun over Microsoft's licensing of Java. The two companies settled out of court, and Microsoft was ordered to only use only an old version of Java within its software products.
Since then, Microsoft has said it will not include a JVM with its new Internet Explorer browser or in Windows XP, the new operating system due for release on 25 October.