Microsoft: Sun made us do it

The war of words between Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. over Java's place in the Windows XP operating system continued last week. Responding to full-page ads that ran in several prominent daily newspapers on August 2, in which Sun called on consumers to demand that Microsoft support Java in its new OS, Microsoft released a statement late last week to make its case for dumping Java.

"Sun Microsystems has turned its marketing machine into high gear about Windows XP," the statement reads, "claiming that Microsoft has hurt Sun, Java and customers by not including the Microsoft virtual machine in Windows XP. It's time to set the facts straight."

First, a bit of history: In 1997, Sun filed a lawsuit alleging that Microsoft violated its contract for licensing Java. In a settlement signed early this year, Microsoft agreed to pay $20 million to Sun and was permanently barred from using "Java-compatible" terminology on its products. Sun was also allowed to terminate the original licensing agreement and Microsoft was allowed to continue using a 4-year-old Java Virtual Machine (JVM) for seven years, but was prohibited from using new versions of the software.

"Rather than pursue a new licensing arrangement, Sun settled its lawsuit with Microsoft by offering a phase-out of Microsoft's Java implementation," Microsoft's statement reads. "Sun was quick to pronounce the settlement a great victory... Sun got what they said they wanted: The termination of the existing Java license and an agreement that Microsoft would phase out its Java virtual machine."

In April, Microsoft removed the old JVM from testing versions of the Internet Explorer 6 browser, which is integrated into Windows XP. The JVM will be an optional 5MB download the first time a user accesses a Web page requiring Java support. According to Jim Cullinan, Windows XP lead product manager, Microsoft pulled the JVM to avoid another lawsuit. "Sun has proven they would rather compete through litigation," Cullinan maintains. "What if, come Oct. 1, Sun decided to seek an injunction stopping Windows XP because they said we didn't keep the terms of the settlement?"

Earlier this month, Sun responded to Microsoft's decision by taking out full-page ads in the New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Wall Street Journal. In the ads, Sun called on consumers " demand that Microsoft include the Java platform in their XP operating system." Sun also admonished consumers to demand that PC vendors, such as Dell, Compaq, Gateway, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, include the Java platform in their applications.

Microsoft characterizes Sun's ads as "unparalleled hypocrisy." The Redmond, WA-based software maker accuses Sun of taking "every step possible to prevent Microsoft from shipping its award winning Java virtual machine." Sun spokesman David Harrah described the ads, which ran only one day, as "a single statement we wanted to get out," he said.

Sun is said to be working on a new version of its JVM that is fully usable by all programs in Windows XP, including Internet Explorer 6. "We are developing a JVM that will reside inside the XP operating system that will be callable by any browser," says Harrah. "We expect to have the usual excellent Windows support when XP ships."

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].