The game is on and the stakes are high. Microsoft’s plan to dominate the Internet by cornering the developing Web services market is taking shape, and its competition is gearing up for a big showdown. Sun, one of Microsoft’s key competitors in the Web services arena, is ready to play.

Microsoft has taken its plan to those who will make or break its effort to dominate in the Web services arena: software developers. After four years of development and two years of promotional buildup, Microsoft has released Visual Studio.NET (VS.NET), a bundle of development tools that are central to capturing the software developer mindshare from rival technologies sold by Sun Microsystems and other Java backers.

As a software development consultant or project manager, we want to know if you have an allegiance to one development method over another. If so, why, or if not, why not? Post your comments in the discussion below.

VS.NET vs. Sun ONE: It comes down to language and OS
“Microsoft is trying to redefine the playing field to make the existing players look as if they were not playing. And they have done a pretty good job of it,” said Simon Phipps, chief technology evangelist at Sun Microsystems, in an interview with CNET But Sun isn’t ready to give up the battle.

As an answer to VS.NET, Sun recentlydebuted the Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE), which includes server software, development tools, and other products for building Web-based e-commerce applications and services.

The key difference between the two tool sets comes down to operating systems. Microsoft favors one operating system—Windows—and allows development through new and existing tools in multiple languages, including Visual Basic, C++, and a Java-like language it developed called C#. Sun allows development on multiple operating systems—including Windows, UNIX, Linux, and mainframe systems—using only Java.

To muddy the waters further, Sun currently doesn’t offer a Java-specific framework for building Web services. Consequently, Java developers must use third-party tools to build a Web service. VS.NET shipped with built-in support for building as well as consuming Web services. So Microsoft has proclaimed its .NET implementation to be superior to Sun’s, as well as others, in terms of performance, implementation costs, and developer efficiency. Read more about this debate in “Creator of .NET Pet Shop defends implementation.”

While the battle to be top dog in Web services is dependent on many factors, developers’ acceptance and use of VS.NET is vital to Microsoft’s plans. Can Sun compete effectively? Are your clients requesting one development method over another? Are you recommending one over another? Tell us what you think by posting a comment below.