Many people believe - even though it was not proved in court - that Microsoft 'borrowed' the Apple Macintosh idea of the graphical user interface and put it into Windows. Microsoft will not admit that it did anything wrong. It had its day in court and won. Apple may or may not have been right to sue Microsoft, but it was not merely Microsoft's ability to 'work the law' that hurt Apple. Apple did a lot of other things wrong including pricing its boxes too high and not licensing its technology to clones quickly enough. That is all history and a talking point among Apple devotees when they have a few beers. Microsoft is now at it again. With J/Direct, a technology Microsoft says will make Java run better on Windows and, far more importantly, run the entire range of Win32 APIs (application program interfaces), Microsoft is clearly attacking the entire idea of independent software development. Java has always been touted by Sun as the 'write once, run anywhere' development tool. Fears that Microsoft would attempt to destroy this would seem to be coming true. More disturbing for Mac people is that the perception seems to be that Apple, too, is going along with this. A recent report on the Internet says that Apple as well as Microsoft will be attempting to create a version of Java that will undermine its multi-platform capabilities. A spokesman for Apple in Hong Kong said that Apple was working on ideas that would allow a Macintosh-implementation of Java to access parts of the 'Yellow box' - the Rhapsody-only part of the new OS, not the MacOS emulation part. The reasoning behind this is that the new Rhapsody system will have such extraordinary features that developers will want to have them. Even if this is true - knowing Apple, it may well be - what will the result be for Apple's relationship with Sun and Java? Apple may not have the same intentions as Microsoft, but it will have to be extremely careful about the way it handles this. Many developers are not going to be happy with the Microsoft approach. After all, only a short time ago developers were beginning to believe that they would never again have to worry about porting. Can Apple still keep these people happy? Apple can do all it wants to make Java run better, faster and with all the hooks it wants to have built into the Rhapsody version of the Java virtual machine. So long as it does nothing to hinder the use of standard Java, there should be no problem. Apple representatives point out that there are many things that Apple operating systems can do that others have difficulty doing, one of the most important being the handling of foreign languages such as Chinese and Japanese. The problem that Apple must be careful about is the possibility that some of its Apple-only features may one day be put into Java. Apple is, I feel, skating on rather thin ice here. Java is moving people and developers away from OS-specific solutions; that is why Microsoft is so worried. Let us hope that Apple knows exactly what it is doing.