Sun-Microsoft Rivalry Heats Up With Java Settlement
- By Scott Bekker
The legal battle between Sun
Java is over, but the companies immediately made it clear that settlement of
the case won’t lead to some new era of good feeling between the bitter IT
“Microsoft has proven time and time again that it is
unwilling to abide by the common rules of the Internet,” declared Patricia
Sueltz, executive vice president of Sun’s software systems groups. “Its
behavior with regard to the Java technology was just one instance.”
That statement came from Sun’s official announcement of the
settlement agreement in the three-year-old federal case Tuesday night. Such
statements are usually a place where companies either make nice, having avoided
trial, or stick to dry legalese.
Microsoft was busy spinning the settlement, too.
“Sun’s stranglehold on Java has just been bad for Java and
bad for developers,” Microsoft spokesman James Cullinan shot back.
The settlement, Cullinan said, “in the end is a loss for Java
developers and the Java language. I think that having a hardware company like
Sun dictating the development of the Java language and the Java technology has
been bad for developers and bad for the industry.”
Under terms of the agreement, Microsoft will pay Sun $20
million and refrain from using the Java Compatible trademark. Sun agrees to
license the rights to Microsoft to distribute the 1.1.4 version of Java in
existing products for seven years. The most current Java Developers Kit is
The settlement protects two major product areas for
Microsoft, the Visual J++ 6.0 development language and the Microsoft Java
Virtual Machine (JVM), which is distributed in Internet Explorer 5.5 and
versions of the Windows operating system.
Being tied to support of an older version of the Java
specification isn’t as bad as it sounds, according to Tony Goodhew, a product
manager in Microsoft’s developer division. “If you look in terms of what’s
happening in client-side Java, almost 100 percent that you as a user would run
or touch using Internet Explorer is JDK 1.1.4.”
Microsoft can continue to ship Visual J++ 6.0, but is
restrained under the agreement from further customizing it. In practical terms,
the company will be able to include Visual J++ 6.0 as a separate CD when it
ships Visual Studio.NET, but no .NET version of Visual J++ will be developed
nor will a Visual J++ compiler be created for .NET.
Components built out of Visual J++ can interoperate with
.NET, however, Goodhew notes.
The settlement essentially wraps up the Java issue in time
for the next big Microsoft v. Sun developer battle for the hearts and minds of
Sun plans to introduce its strategy for taking on
Microsoft’s .NET strategy in early February. – Scott Bekker
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.