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Commentary: Sun suit both good and bad

In Gartner's opinion, the company may have at least one reasonable complaint in its lawsuit against Microsoft.

By Daryl Plummer and David Smith, Gartner Analysts

In Gartner's opinion, Sun Microsystems may have at least one reasonable complaint in its lawsuit against Microsoft.

Namely, Java on the desktop has been largely limited to intranets and special installations because of the difficulty of integrating it with Microsoft desktop solutions. That situation would be alleviated if the distribution of Sun's Java plug-in were tied to the distribution of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system and Internet Explorer.

See news story:
Experts: Sun lawsuit reaches too far
However, the issue of monetary damages to Sun will likely be more difficult to justify.

Sun must demonstrate that Microsoft's desktop monopoly damages Sun's server business. That may be tricky, inasmuch as Sun doesn't have many revenue-generating desktop Java products.

Furthermore, Gartner believes that Sun hasn't made a connection between the limited desktop Java and the lack of success on the server. Sun has often claimed that it is not attempting to make money directly from Java by leveraging the Java platform. However, server-side Java has been extremely successful. Sun claims a direct relationship exists between the success of server Java sales and desktop Java penetration. Sun might thus claim Microsoft's practices have hurt enterprise product sales of Sun subsidiary iPlanet.

Sun seems to have a precedent for at least a partial legal ruling in its favor, having favorably settled a lawsuit against Microsoft for breach of contract in a dispute over licensing Java in January 2001. And, of course, Microsoft has already been found guilty of monopolistic practices, regardless of the outcome of this case.

Sun may thus have good reason to seek relief on the issue of Java's place on the Microsoft desktop and within Microsoft browsers. However, many people will likely consider this new suit to be a desperate attempt by Sun to gain legal leverage, as opposed to market leverage, against Microsoft and to limit the appeal and success of Microsoft's .Net.

Sun may have a good chance of winning portions of this lawsuit--much as it did the previous suit--and compelling Microsoft to put back Java into Explorer and Windows XP.

However, the more important issue is that, in Gartner's opinion, Microsoft has been ahead of Sun lately in innovation and marketing. Sun must innovate as well as litigate. That means aggressively marketing Java and other software against Microsoft and .Net.

(For related commentary on Sun and iPlanet, see

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.