Rumors are running rampant on the Web this week that Microsoft is prepared to drop Java and its own Visual J++ Java development tool for good if it loses its Java court case with Sun. And Microsoft has been working for some time on a replacement for Java, code-named "COOL", that enhances C++ (another object-oriented programming language) with Java-like features. While Microsoft officials stop short of saying that Visual J++ is dead, they do concede that a ruling against Microsoft would be problematic for future development. And perhaps most telling, the company has no plans to update Visual J++ to conform to the judge's ruling in the Java case.

"Java is under serious constraint and uncertainty over how any vendor can innovate around it, whether it's our tools or any other. We have to determine if that uncertainty is acceptable," Greg Leake, the lead product manager for Visual Studio, says. "It depends on the lawsuit. I can't speculate further than that."

As for "COOL", Leake says that the code-named stands for "C++ Object-Oriented Language."

"\[COOL\] makes C++ programming simpler. We like Java (the language) because it is simple, and simpler than C++, but there have to be ways to make that easier," he says. "Can we not take the things that are wonderful about C++ and marry them with an easier model?"

The model he's referring to is COM+, Microsoft's object-based development strategy that is integrated into Windows 2000. COM+ applications and components can be written in any programming language, but C++ is usually used because it creates the fastest code. COOL may change that and, because its being developed in Redmond, it may be an easier fit with COM+ because they can build that compatibility in from the outset, not retrofit it as they've had to do with C++, Visual Basic, and Visual J++/Java