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Sun Responds to Microsoft's Removal of JVM in XP

Microsoft Corp.'s decision not to bundle a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with its upcoming Windows XP operating system has raised the ire of a number of Java developers and caused Sun Microsystems -- the creator of Java -- to cry foul. But Microsoft maintains that its hands were tied by the settlement earlier this year of a lawsuit brought against it by Sun.

That lawsuit stems from an agreement the two companies made in 1996, which gave Microsoft the right to use the Java technology, with the stipulation that it would deliver only compatible implementations of it. After the agreement was struck, Microsoft used Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.1.4, a version long superceded (Sun is now up to JDK 1.4), to ensure Windows-only compatibility. Sun sued, and the two companies settled in January, with Microsoft agreeing to pay the company $20 million. As part of the settlement, Sun gave Microsoft the right to use the outdated JDK, and the Java Virtual Machine that complements it, for seven years.

Not surprisingly, Sun said the settlement in no way prevents Microsoft from providing native support for Java in Windows XP and indicated that the move is a thinly veiled attack against it.

In an internal memo, Sun said the discovery "that Microsoft tried to quietly exclude the Java virtual machine from its core Windows XP operating system is disappointing to Sun Microsystems and the Java Community. Clearly, it is a move that was intended by Microsoft to hurt consumers and the millions of developers that use the Java platform."

However, Yankee Group Analyst Neal Goldman told InternetNews.com earlier this week that Microsoft made a rational decision because the settlement of the lawsuit only gave the company the right to use old technology.

"It comes down to the settlement agreement," Goldman said. "On the one hand, you could say, 'gee, Microsoft is attempting to keep people from using Java on Windows and this is sort of an exclusionary tactic.' I think that's probably not true. Because of the settlement agreement with Sun, they can't ship current or new versions of Java. If my choices were to ship nothing or an old version, I would ship nothing."

Sun called that argument specious.

"Microsoft's attempts to neutralize the innovations brought to the Web by the Java platform are widely known," the company said. "Its previous attempts to coerce technology companies into not developing and distributing Java technologies are well documented in the U.S. antitrust case and were upheld by the appeals court. This move by Microsoft was a unilateral decision by them and was not a result of the settlement of the Sun Microsoft lawsuit. That settlement gives Microsoft seven years to distribute the Java virtual machine."

Sun spokesman David Harrah added, "The lawsuit was brought because Microsoft built an incompatible version of Java. They left a bunch of developers that had used their tools and their version of Java hanging. We negotiated with them to allow them to continue to distribute version 1.1.4...We don't know why they took this action. They negotiated with us to keep the virtual machine in. We're a little puzzled why several months ago it was something that they wanted to do and now it's something that they don't."

Microsoft has long viewed Java's ability to run on multiple operating systems -- including those that run mobile devices like PDAs -- as a threat to its Windows product line and its .NET platform, which has capabilities similar to Java's. Microsoft's maneuverings against Sun and Java were part of the foundation of the government's antitrust case against Microsoft. Three weeks ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously upheld a lower court's finding that Microsoft used deceptive and predatory tactics to undermine Java technology.

But Microsoft said it makes little sense for it to ship an outdated virtual machine with Windows XP. Instead, the company said its Internet Explorer browser will prompt users to go to the Windows Download page and download a JVM the first time they encounter a Web page that can't be properly rendered without Java. Alternatively, users can download JVM's from any other vendor, including Sun and IBM, or get it packaged with software written in Java. Also, anyone upgrading to XP from a previous version of Windows will retain their old JVM.

A new group of small- and medium-sized Java developers that calls itself POSSIE (People for Open, Safe and Secure Internet and Email) questioned that Thursday.

"Testing conducted by developers associated with non-profit group POSSIE indicates the Internet Explorer browser will not recognize VM downloads from Sun Microsystems or IBM in Release Candidate 1 of XP," the group said. "Microsoft also indicated previous versions of Windows being upgraded to the new XP would maintain the VM, and that only new installations of the desktop OS would be impacted. However, POSSIE testing also shows the existing VM is not recognized by Internet Explorer after upgrading to XP from Windows NT, Windows 98, or Windows 2000."

POSSIE Director Andrew Shikiar added, "These tests certainly create an early concern that the disablement of Java is going to be a bigger issue. Beyond the VM download issue, users will still be denied Java due to little-known changes to security settings and their definitions in XP."

"That's incorrect," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com Friday. "Microsoft just downloaded the IBM Java virtual machine and Sun Java virtual machine and both worked fine. If users need a JVM they can absolutely download it."

The spokesperson also said Microsoft would have no reason to block its own JVM from working when upgrading to XP from previous versions.

Harrah, speaking for Sun, said no one at Sun had raised issues about its virtual machine not working with XP. "I haven't gotten any information from our people that validates that," he said.

As for security settings blocking Java, Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla told InternetNews.com on Wednesday that XP's high security settings don't discriminate against any particular language or script. He noted that in addition to blocking many Java applets, the settings also block Microsoft's VBScript and ActiveX controls.

Meanwhile, Sun said that even if Microsoft is attempting to bury its Java technology, the Redmond, Wash.-based software titan will be hard pressed to do it.

"Despite Microsoft's attempts to limit the distribution of Java technology, its use continues to grow," the company said. "Java provides a robust and secure way to run applications on the network. An estimated 7 million Web sites use Java applets to provide consumers with information. In addition, Java technology is now being incorporated into millions of wireless and portable client devices that do not utilize Microsoft operating systems or software. The Java technology's innovative ability to provide an application platform that runs everywhere without regard to the underlying operating system is too compelling for any single company -- even Microsoft -- to stop it. Software based on the Java platform is rolling out from hundreds of companies and millions of developers."

Harrah added, "The world, I think, is going to have both Java and .NET in it and they seem to be stating that they don't care to recognize that. We find it hard to believe how they're going to manage that."

Sun also said it will continue to provide Windows support. Harrah said Sun is speaking with PC makers to get them to include JVMs with Windows XP machines before the machines ship to consumers.