RealTime IT News

Microsoft Backs Off JVM Stance

Seeking to take some of the wind out of the sails of Sun Microsystems' pending antitrust lawsuit, Microsoft has reportedly decided to include a Java Virtual Machine in the Service Pack 1 update for Windows XP expected this summer.

However, while the company is including a JVM in the Service Pack in order to remove some of Sun's ammunition in the case, its long-term plans still include deep-sixing the JVM on Jan. 1, 2004, according to reports.

Java , developed by Sun, is a popular platform for the creation of animation and interactive features for the Web. Client-side Java applications require the installation of a plug-in called a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) before it will run on a user's computer. The plug-in is widely available for download on the Web and also frequently ships with Java-enabled software.

All previous versions of Windows have included a JVM, but Microsoft decided not to include one with Windows XP. However, Java is highly common on the Web, and Microsoft did include a "download-on-demand" feature which queries users if they want to download a JVM when they encounter Java-enabled Web sites.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Dessler told internetnews.com in March that the company chose not to include a JVM in Windows XP as the result of a lawsuit by Sun which the company settled in January 2001 to the tune of $20 million.

Sun initiated that lawsuit in 1997. It stemmed from an agreement the two companies made in 1996, when Microsoft obtained a license from Sun to use the Java technology, with the stipulation that Microsoft would deliver only compatible implementations of the technology.

Following the agreement, Microsoft used the Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.1.4, a version that had long been superceded, thus ensuring Windows-only compatibility. Sun argued that by making its Java implementation Windows-only, Microsoft violated the terms of the license.

As part of the settlement, Sun gave Microsoft the right to continue using the outdated JDK for seven years, though Microsoft made no commitment to do so.

As a result, in July 2001, Microsoft decided not to include a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) in Windows XP. Microsoft maintained that because it was constrained to offer only an obsolete version of the JVM, it was better not to include one at all, and let consumers download it or PC manufacturers install it if they chose.

In it's lawsuit, Sun argues that Microsoft has engaged in "extensive anticompetitive conduct," including fragmenting the Java platform, flooding the market with incompatible Java Runtime Environments, forcing other companies to distribute or use products that are incompatible with Java. Sun's preliminary injunctions also asked that Microsoft stop distribution of its Java Virtual Machine through separate downloads and for Microsoft to disclose and license proprietary interfaces, protocols, and formats and to unbundle tied products, such as Internet Explorer, IIS Web server, and the .Net framework.

Microsoft will pull the download-on-demand feature. The JVM it includes in the Service Pack will be its old JVM based on JDK 1.1.4.

Neither Sun nor Microsoft were immediately available for comment. However, Sun has posted a link to its Web site offering consumers an "early access Java plug-in for Windows XP."