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version long superceded (Sun is now up to JDK 1.4), to ensure Windows-only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settlement, Sun gave Microsoft the right to use the outdated JDK, and the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
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
“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
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
“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.