Sun has dented Microsoft's plans to continue developing Java along its own proprietary lines by winning a preliminary victory in its licensing infringement suit.
The court ruled last week that Microsoft must take action within 90 days from 17 November to turn off its proprietary extensions on any supplied product. Linked to this is the requirement to display a message when the features are turned on within a developer's application. The second action stipulated by the court is for Sun's Java Native Interface (JNI) to be included in Microsoft's virtual machine.
If Microsoft does not comply then products such as Windows 98, Internet Explorer and Visual J will have to be withdrawn from the market.
Sun's victory was a boost for the Department of Justice (DoJ) in its anti-trust battle with Microsoft. DoJ lawyers said the ruling provided further evidence against Microsoft in its case.
Microsoft maintained that Java has to be modified to make a better fit with Windows but Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman, president and CEO, disagreed vehemently. In his keynote speech at this year's JavaOne conference, McNealy said: "Microsoft's been working for about 20 years on its API sets. There aren't many applications I can think of any more that you can write in a Windows environment that you can't write in the Java environment."
Following the ruling, Microsoft immediately took action to quell the fears of its developers by posting an open letter from Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Microsoft Applications and tools group. In the Web posting he said that this in no way affects currently shipping third-party products or future projects. He also pointed out that, as long as the JVI is supported, then Microsoft can continue to add and improve its own extensions.
"Whatever spin Microsoft tries to put on this, it's been made clear what it has to do and it's clear that it has lost," said Andy Bush, UK market development group manager at Sun. "What developers will be aware of is the disincentive to implement the extensions until the outcome of the court case."
The question is how many developers will actually be affected, said Martin Brampton, senior analyst at Bloor Research. "Microsoft appears to have sold more copies of J than are actually in live use by developers," he said. "Most corporate developers are choosing and using 100% pure Java because they want to run their applications across several platforms, not just Windows. Java exists in a world that is still dominated by Unix servers and systems like IBM's AS/400."
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