Microsoft hums a new tune with a familiar beat.

See Sharp?

Microsoft hums a new tune with a familiar beat.

Are you musically inclined? Auntie was once third-seat contrabassoon in the Land of the Bemused Symphonic Orchestra and Help Desk, so she knows just enough about music to be dangerously dissonant. I was therefore amused when the Redmond kids slipped in, at their announcement, that the next version of Visual Studio would contain a new language called C# (“C Sharp”).

Putatively designed to help developers get the biggest bang for the buck from the Microsoft .NET (nee Next Generation Windows Services) initiative, C# is C-like in structure and syntax and executes within a virtual machine. Sound familiar? Here’s a clue: The announcement didn’t mention a new version of Visual J++. If you need to hum a few more bars, allow me to be direct: C# is Microsoft’s latest whack at Java.

Yep. Of all the institutional neuroses resident up Redmond’s way, the compulsion to lay serious whup-ass on Java is one that Auntie has the least patience with. You’d think by now Bill and Steve would have learned that letting at least one serious competitor survive can cut down on the legal bills.

This is not to say Auntie holds Scott McNealy and the Sun gang in particularly high esteem. Their half-hearted, phony-as-a-three-dollar-bill actions toward making Java a standard have been painful to witness.

My emotional tirade aside, let’s look at the situation with some objectivity. Java is far more universal than any almost-clone language Microsoft has (or will) come up with, because Microsoft will always try to add features designed to move developers and end users to its own OS and applications. Inclusion of these features will also always give Microsoft’s language a competitive advantage in all-Microsoft environments and a competitive disadvantage in environments where other browsers and other OSs are present.

Will you use C#? It’s likely, especially if you develop Windows-based apps in C++ or J++. C# isn’t designed for the casual coder. Say what you want about Visual Basic, VBA, and VBScript, but there’s an English-like internal consistency (well, most of the time) to the structure and syntax of those languages that make them comparatively easy for newbies to pick up. But C#—like C++, J++ and Java—has its structural roots in C and is as English-like as “sloovometzy yfling.”

Auntie’s neutral on C#. My concern is really with Microsoft .NET itself: Will it be truly useful in the field or is it a not-so-subtle attempt to blur the lines between operating system and application so that, if Judge Jackson’s decision is upheld and two companies are created, Microsoft will try to subvert the decision by throwing whatever it wants into the OS company?

That’s the bottom line: Are these new products situational reactions to the antitrust case or true attempts to evolve the Windows operating system and supporting development tools? I don’t know the answer.

Regardless, I’m not yet sure that C# is my kind of music. It’s especially a tough key for the contrabassoon.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.


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