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Microsoft Expects To Meet Java Deadline

Microsoft officials expect to have Java-less versions for some of its popular consumer software ready by the end of the year, internetnews.com has learned.

At the same time, officials announced the end to a slew of Java-related downloads on its Microsoft Software Developers Network (MSDN).

The announcement, made in a Microsoft newsgroup forum Thursday, marks the beginning of the end for Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine , as well as Windows support for Java .

The roots of the announcement stretch back to 1996, when Microsoft licensed the Java technology from Sun Microsystems. The Java creator's only stipulation was that the JVM it created be compatible with other implementations.

Instead, Sun claims, Microsoft used an older Java Development Kit (v 1.1.4) and added its own extensions that made it compatible only with Windows programs. The MS-JVM was then incorporated into Microsoft's software, notably those mentioned above.

In January 2001, Microsoft settled out of court for $20 million rather than go to trial over a lawsuit Sun filed in 1997 over Java license violations.

But it also signaled the end of Java on Windows XP. Microsoft said it would include a JVM in the operating system, but would not provide any support for the Java technology after September 2004.

Now, the Redmond, Wash.-based software company plans to issue updates to Windows XP Professional (with FrontPage), Publisher 2002, ISA Server 2000, Windows NT 4.0 and Small Business Server 2000 to accommodate Microsoft's current seven-year-old Java contract, all expected before Jan. 1, 2004.

Next Monday, MSDN download center techs are expected to take out the download links for some of its most popular software titles that are not compliant with the settlement terms. Many are software tools for Microsoft's name-brand titles -- like Embedded Visual Tools 3.0 and Office 2000/XP Developer -- but some are full-out applications as in the case of Internet Explorer 5.5, SQL Server 7, Windows 98 (except for the Special Edition) and Windows NT 4.0.

Rather than spending time, effort and money on old(er) code that isn't used as much today, the decision was made to discontinue many software titles, said Tony Goodhew, Microsoft developer division product manager.

"Products are retired as they get older, and for these products that were at the end of their support life cycle and ran on the Microsoft Virtual Machine, we made the decision not to re-release them," he said.

Recognizing the need to provide a smooth transition for current users of the MS JVM, Sun and Microsoft recently agreed to extend Microsoft's license to use Sun's Java source code and compatibility test suites. The extension keeps lets Microsoft support the MS JVM until September 30, 2004, and gives Microsoft the ability to address potential security issues, effectively giving customers another year to manage the transition.

"Even for security issues we can't modify the virtual machines so we will not be shipping any products that include a component that we can not do security fixes on," Goodhew said.

A spokesperson for Sun said the company is glad that Microsoft is complying with the terms of the settlement but is disappointed that the software giant is relying on seven-year-old Sun technology that can only be refreshed with security updates. Sun is offering the latest version of its JVM for all platforms (including Windows) on its Java.com site.