Sun comes to the table, as Microsoft leaves a dance

When Sun was voted onto the board of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) in late March, it marked another chapter in the intertwined stories of Sun and Microsoft.

Sun initially stayed out of WS-I. It is widely held that Sun declined general membership in the group because this would have placed Sun at a level of protocol below that of board seat holder Microsoft.

Sun changed its mind, finally, joining WS-I in October of last year. Its election to the WS-I board was anticipated.

Such musical-chair committee moves are carefully watched in the close-knit Web services standard community. So attention has begun to focus on Microsoft’s departure from another standards committee.

Not long after Sun’s election to the WS-I board, Microsoft walked away from the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Web Services Choreography working group, saying that the group and the software maker were moving in different directions. Such a move, writes Richard Adhikari in 'Microsoft move could slow Web services', could reduce momentum for XML-based computing over the Web.

More moves will surely come to our attention as the story of Microsoft vs. Sun plays out. A sampling of previous squabbles follows.

Fightin' words

If you’re trying to rouse the emotions of computer people of a certain age, you can do worse than evoke the tale of Luke, Obi-Wan and Darth, which is exactly what Sun CEO Scott McNealy did at a conference in San Francisco in March of last year. But the Force alone apparently was not enough: Earlier that month, Sun fired the latest broadside in the epic battle between the two companies when it took Microsoft to court over alleged anticompetitive acts related to Java.

When Microsoft’s Bill Gates testified in the case, he said that McNealy and Sun had it all wrong, and that it was his company, not Sun, that was the victim. The company seemed to back down slightly over the summer when it included Java in an update to one OS, an inclusion enforced by a court order late in the year, then reversed by yet another ruling in February of this year.

Big Brother and the “Men in Blue”

However the battle plays itself out in the future, it’s unlikely that either side will be completely defeated at the hands of the other, even though some have prematurely counted one or the other out. Such was the experience of Apple, which reopened an old feud with Microsoft in January of this year when CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s open-source foray into the browser world, a front which had lain dormant between the two companies for several years. Sun and Microsoft might also look to the experiences of IBM, which suffered setbacks in the 80s but renewed its focus in the 90s, proving that, for some, history does count for something in the computer world.

Related story: Sun finally gains WS-I board seat


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