Court Clarifies Injunction, Microsoft Can Brew Java

<P><a href="displayarticle.asp?ID=399943726PM"><IMG SRC="archive/1999/pics/winjava.jpg" align="right" border="0"></A>Sun Microsystems Inc. had a setback in its fight to retain full rights to the Java programming language and to ensure that Microsoft Corp.'s products are in full compliance. </P>

Sun Microsystems Inc. had a setback in its fight to retain full rights to the Java programming language and to ensure that Microsoft Corp.'s products are in full compliance.

Judge Ronald Whyte of the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., ruled that a preliminary injunction he issued against Microsoft in November does not prohibit the Redmond, Wash.-based company from developing an independent version of the Java programming language.

Three months ago the court said Microsoft had to change settings in Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4.0 and Visual J++ 6.0 so each would meet the Sun testing standard for Java-enabled software. This new ruling clarifies the previous one by stating Microsoft is clear to develop its own form of the programming language.

Sun's biggest gripe was with Visual J++. When Microsoft released the product two years ago, it came with the ability to write pure Java code and Java code that was Windows-specific, but the default setting in the software was for the proprietary development. According to the court, the preliminary injunction in November did not rule out the function in J++ that allowed creating Windows-based Java code, but instead required a change in the default setting, which is now turned to vanilla Java.

The setback for Sun may only be temporary. The company received a hearing date of March 12 to discuss forbidding Microsoft from creating its own version of Java. From Microsoft’s perspective, there's been an appeal filed on the November injunction, so there's still an appellate debate to come on the initial point.

In the meantime, there have been that operations are rocky at J++ central, and that Microsoft has halted development of the product altogether. The evidence that prompted this report came from a Microsoft Solutions Developer Network (MSDN) member who reported he didn't receive all of his Java software. Joe Herman, product manager with Microsoft's platforms marketing, says this isn't true.

"We investigated that a little bit and [the story] was based on a customer who misunderstood what he was supposed to get," Herman says. He explains there is a process where an initial CD-ROM is sent and the new MSDN member must register to get the full kit. This particular individual hadn't registered yet.

Herman and Prashant Sridharan, Visual J++ product manager, explained that the ruling had no effect on the future development of J++ and that version 7.0 is going through the stages right now. The two wouldn't comment on any future plans Microsoft might have as a result of the court's latest ruling, such as creating its own Java language or platform. "We were just asking the judge for clarification so that we would be able to continue innovating," Herman explains.

Dave Kelly, vice president of application strategies at the Hurwitz Group (, says he would be surprised if Microsoft walked away from Java. "I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to find ways to augment it if they can, such as develop their own clean room version of it," Kelly says. He explains that Microsoft could create a virtual machine that is compatible with Java but not based on Sun's source code. "I think Microsoft has strongly endorsed the Java language. They strongly disagree with the Java platform."