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Sun Suit Throws Wrench Into Windows 98 Release

Sun Microsystems Inc. said today it filed two new motions in U.S. District Court in San Jose, CA to add preliminary injunctions to its original Java language suit filed against Microsoft Corp.

The company said it asked the court to require that Microsoft's Windows 98 release be shipped with a compatible implementation of the Java platform, in an effort to prevent the software giant from breaching previous compatibility agreements.

Sun claims that Microsoft made modifications to the Java programming language that included changes to class hierarchies and class libraries, in addition to alterations of the native method interface.

Sun Microsystems Java software division president Alan Baratz said it is asking Microsoft to either ship a version of Windows 98 that is fully compatible with Sun's Java, to ship Java Runtime if Microsoft wants to ship Windows 98 with its own Java version, or to remove Java compatibility entirely.

When asked today during a teleconference if Sun's legal action is piggybacking on the impending state injunctions seeking to stop shipment of Windows 98, Baratz said, "Neither the states nor the government has consulted with Sun. It has zero effect on our decision."

"Our goal is simply to ask the court to define a level playing field that developers can rely on during the time it takes for the court to fully deliberate our contract dispute with Microsoft," added Baratz.

"We'd be gratified to settle this matter at any time, but until that happens we believe it is important to look at Windows 98 as a delivery vehicle for Java technology and to make sure that, at a minimum, there are at least as many copies of a fully compatible Java implementation in the marketplace as there are copies of Microsoft's incompatible technology."

Sun said it also asked the court to stop Microsoft from shipping its own software tools for the Java environment unless it generates only compatible Java software. Sun said Microsoft has mixed and matched Sun's code with "tainted" Microsoft code.

The motions filed today in U.S. District Court are sealed as a protective order, according to Sun, so that trade secrets or confidential information would not be disclosed. Sun said it favors unsealing court documents, and reportedly sent Microsoft a letter today seeking permission to make the papers public.

This latest round of legal sparring hinges on the original Sun suit filed against Microsoft on October 7, 1997. In that court action, Sun said Microsoft deliberately violated its licensing agreement with Sun, and developed its own version of the Java platform that works solely with Microsoft products.

On November 17, 1997, Sun filed a motion asking the court to bar Microsoft from using the Java Compatible Logo on its products. Sun alleged that the Java language had been improperly modified by Microsoft and failed to pass Sun's compatibility tests.

On March 24, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte granted Sun's request and issued a preliminary injunction that prevents Microsoft from using Sun's Java Compatible logo in both promoting and distributing Internet Explorer 4.0 and other products.

Sun said it is in the process of moving Java into standardization so that it is readily available to the public. The company submitted specifications to the International Standards Organization back in February.

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