The road ahead for Microsoft suddenly has a rather large Sun-shaped log placed across it. The decision of a federal judge in San Jose to hand Scot McNeally & co a stunning (but probably temporary) victory stopping Microsoft from selling products which use Sun's Java in its 'adulterated' form will have effects on more than Microsoft.
The fight between Sun and Microsoft will probably result this time in considerable collateral damage to the very people both companies depend on more than any to ship products - third-party developers.
Sun may be back in control of Java but the big headache is not just one for Microsoft. Untangling Internet Explorer and Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine from Windows 98 will be a nightmare for Microsoft. But it will be an even bigger problem for those developers already working on enhancements for the Explorer 5 Beta.
Microsoft is reassuring its developers that not much will change and that it only has to ensure that the Java Virtual Interface within its implementation of Java complies with the Sun specs. As long as the user is warned when any program is about to use its proprietary extensions, it's just business as usual. It all seems so easy.
Meanwhile the documents released by the US District Judge supposedly prove that Microsoft ran a concerted campaign to 'pollute Java' and required that its own developers and licensees use and distribute only its version of the Java technology.
But it is hard not to question just how much of a victory this will be for those developers who are well down the Microsoft road with finished products. They will be left with code which they now cannot deliver as Bill's minions scramble to shake real Java out of the sullied version it presently uses.
Those pure Java aficionados will be vindicated and their code will run.
Those who have followed the Microsoft path may feel that they have been badly misled by an arrogant Microsoft. There are rumours that some of them across the pond are considering a class action suit to recompense them for the loss of earnings while motoring down the wrong development road. This could really be the beginning of the end for Microsoft and the beginning of the 'write once run anywhere' dream that started all this Java hype years ago.
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