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Windows XP Gives Java the Boot

Microsoft Corp. is stripping Java support from its forthcoming Windows XP operating system, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The software giant positions its action as a response to a legal settlement that it reached with Java caretaker Sun Microsystems Inc. earlier this year.

In late 1997, Sun filed a lawsuit against Microsoft and charged the software giant with violating the terms of its licensing agreement by creating a Windows-specific version of Java. In January, the two parties reached a settlement in which Microsoft was restricted from licensing any new versions of Java from Sun, but in which the software giant was still free to distribute products based on outdated versions of Java until 2008.

"In the wake of the settlement agreement with Sun and the resolution of that litigation, this approach simplifies our implementation and adherence of that agreement," AP reported Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla as saying.

To that end, Windows XP will be completely Java-free, notes Rob Enderle, a senior analyst with consultancy Giga Information Group.

“As part of the settlement with Sun, Microsoft has to be at arm’s length from Java anyway, so they’re removing the JVM and stripping XP of all support for Java,” he says.

Not only that, says Enderle, but XP and Internet Explorer 6.0 will also ship with all support for Java, Javascript and even ActiveX disabled by default.

“Microsoft has defaulted the controls in the browser to not run Java and Javascript along with ActiveX,” he points out. “So pretty much anything that Microsoft thought was going to create a security problem is turned off.”

But that’s hogwash, suggests Andrew Shikiar, director of People for Open, Safe and Secure Internet and E-mail (POSSIE), an advocacy group that claims to represent enterprise developers and small ISVs who stand to be threatened by Microsoft’s move.

“Java is inherently a secure language that runs inside of a sandbox and has no access to system resources and system files. It’s never been the source of any major viruses or bugs,” he observes. “Nonetheless, Microsoft stuck Java in the bucket of ActiveX and VB script, [the latter of] which is the source of the ILOVEYOU bug and the Melissa virus.”

Shikiar and others argue that Microsoft didn’t have to categorically remove Java from XP, either, to comply with the terms of its settlement agreement with Sun. The software giant is, after all, free to incorporate Java version 1.1.4 support into its products for the next seven years. Shikiar notes that the vast majority of Java applets have been designed to comply with Java versions 1.1.4 and lower.

Sun, which recently launched a new initiative – dubbed Java 2 Enterprise Edition – based on Java version 2.0, is now shipping Java 2.1. In this respect, Giga’s Enderle argues that third party vendors can provide updated Java 2.x JVMs for Windows XP, and he also says that Microsoft will likely make its Java 1.1.4 JVM available separately on the Windows XP CD or as a download from its Web site.

But POSSIE’s Shikiar – who states that his organization is not affiliated in any way with Sun – argues that it’s Microsoft’s draconian security restrictions that most endanger the work of hundreds of enterprise developers and ISV’s who’ve based Web applications on browser-downloadable Java applets.

“The type of work that POSSIE members are typically doing is applet-centric,” he argues. “If they change the security settings, Java applets by default won’t run in the e-mail client or in other applications even if they do install a separate JVM.”

For application developers working on new projects, however, consultancy Zona Research anticipates that Java and Microsoft platforms will interoperate by means of the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) standard. According to Zona, developers who use the software giant’s forthcoming Visual Studio .NET development environment will be able to build applications that make SOAP calls to other applications running Java.

“This is not the end of the world for developers faced with the task of tying together applications across the .NET and Java worlds,” Zona writes. Stephen Swoyer

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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