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Microsoft gains stay in Java battle

[February 4, 2003] - The legal fight between Sun and Microsoft over Java shows signs that it could eventually rival the DOJ-Microsoft case for lengthiness and intense pendulum swings that put one side, then the other, in an apparent position to win. At the same time, the parties sometimes appear on the verge of a quick solution.

A series of private talks between Sun and Microsoft recently ended after several weeks during which the two, at a judge's direction, negotiated to place the Java virtual machine inside shipping copies of Windows operating systems. Microsoft had also been ordered to remove its Microsoft Java Virtual Machine from its products.

On Monday, an appeals court stayed a lower court judge's injunction that would have forced Microsoft to formally include the Java runtime environment in the Windows PC operating system or Internet Explorer. At almost the same time, Microsoft published a statement outlining the steps it was prepared to take should the injunction ultimately hold.

At the end of December 2002, Judge Frederick Motz, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, said he would order Microsoft to include Java with its Windows PC OSes to help ensure that software developers had choices in computer languages. At the time, Motz said he was persuaded that Sun's likelihood of success in an overall antitrust trial ''is substantial.'' Motz said he hoped Sun and Microsoft could successfully negotiate terms to add Sun's Java to Microsoft's Windows, but that has so far proved fruitless.

Microsoft's statement shows how the company would seek to comply with the order should it lose its appeal. Viewers suggest that these terms are similar to ones Sun rejected in the recent negotiations.

Microsoft said it would:
* Make Sun's Java Runtime Environment (JRE) available on Windows Update within 90 days of the effective data of the order as a recommended update.

* Stop shipping the Microsoft VM in service packs for Windows XP this month;

* Include Sun's JRE in Windows XP SP1b for English and German speaking markets within 120 days from the effective date of the order, covering all Windows XP versions within 210 days; and

* Include neither the Microsoft VM nor the Sun JRE in Windows Server 2003, which the company said is not covered by the District Court's order.

Because Microsoft won a stay of Motz's injunction, filed January 21, the order will not go into effect until upheld on appeal. Sun and Microsoft have jointly requested an expedited briefing schedule for the appeal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that temporarily stayed the injunction to include Java with Windows is expected to hear the two sides again at the end of March.

''We regret the 4th Circuit Court's decision. The preliminary injunctions granted by the District Court will benefit consumers and the Java Community's developers, enterprises and system vendors,'' said Lee Patch, vice president, Legal Affairs, Sun Microsystems Inc., in a statement. Patch said Sun looked forward to ''demonstrating the merits of District Court's decision'' when the appeal is heard.

Links to rulings and company statements:
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in re: Sun Microsystems v. Microsoft , Feb. 4, 2003, go to http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/031116R1.U.pdf

U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland issues a preliminary injunction , Jan. 21, 2003, go to http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/java/01-21-03sunorder.pdf

Microsoft response to injunction stay dated Feb. 3, 2003, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/evaluation/news/jre.asp

''Judge set to force Microsoft to carry Java,'' ADTmag.com, Dec. 23, 2002, go to http://www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=7080

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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