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Microsoft pulls Java from Windows

In compliance with a court order, the software titan releases an updated version of Windows XP Service Pack 1 without its own version of Java.

Microsoft on Monday released an updated version of Windows XP Service Pack 1 without the company's version of Java, complying with a court order that was stayed just hours later.

Microsoft released Service Pack 1, the first major collection of Windows XP bug fixes, in September. The update added Microsoft's version of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which the company had decided not to ship with the operating system launched in October 2001. The revised service pack, version 1a, removes Microsoft's JVM, as ordered by a Baltimore court.

An appeals court issued a stay of that order late Monday, pending an appeal of the case. Despite the stay, a Microsoft representative said the company would continue to offer Service Pack 1a for download, in line with current plans to stop distributing its own version of JVM in its products.

It is unclear how many PCs have shipped with Microsoft's version of JVM or have been upgraded to include it. PC makers are currently free to include either Microsoft's or Sun's version of Java.

In January, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz gave Microsoft 120 days to replace its JVM included with Windows XP with a more current Java Runtime Environment (JRE) from Sun Microsystems. Sun had asked Motz to issue a preliminary injunction compelling Microsoft to carry its JVM as part of a larger private lawsuit brought against the software titan.

Removal of Microsoft's JVM is only the first step in the process. Microsoft plans to make Sun's JRE available for download about 90 days after the judge's order takes effect. XP users also would have the option of downloading the JRE using the Windows Update feature.

"Windows customers are not required to take any action as a result of the district court's order, including downloading the updated versions of Windows XP SP1," Microsoft said in a statement.

Within about 120 days after the judge's order goes into effect, Microsoft also plans to distribute "supplemental CD-ROMs or other media" to PC makers and corporate customers subscribing to a volume licensing agreement.

"The order does not require (PC makers) and volume licensees to use or distribute Sun's JRE, and whether they do so is entirely their choice," Microsoft said in the statement.

Prior to Monday's stay, Microsoft said it planned to release in June Windows XP Service Pack 1b, which will include Sun's JRE. "Windows XP SP1b will be identical to Windows XP SP1 with the only changes being the removal of the Microsoft VM and the addition of Sun's JRE," according to Microsoft's statement.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company also revealed that Windows XP Service Pack 2 would be revealed later in 2003. At this point, Microsoft plans to include Sun's JRE in that update.

Still, Microsoft has filed an appeal, asking the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate Motz's order. The Baltimore judge stayed his original order so that Microsoft could file its appeal.

"Contingent upon the outcome of Microsoft's pending appeal, Microsoft will distribute Sun's JRE with future versions of Windows, including Longhorn, and will no longer include the Microsoft VM in future versions of or updates to Windows, including Windows 2000 (Service Pack 4)," the company said in its statement.

Longhorn, the next major overhaul of Windows, is tentatively scheduled to ship in late 2004.

Microsoft noted that the order does not affect Windows Server 2003, which the company is expected to ship in April. "It will include neither the Microsoft VM nor Sun's JRE," according to Microsoft.

Bitter Java battle
The court's injunction percolates to a new level the long-standing Java brouhaha between Microsoft and Sun. Sun sued Microsoft for $35 million in 1997, contending the software giant breached its contract by trying to extend Java so it would work differently, and presumably better, on Windows computers. The two companies settled the lawsuit in January 2001 for $20 million, with Sun extending Microsoft the right to license an outdated version of the JVM for seven years.

Microsoft's treatment of Java also played an important role in the federal and state antitrust lawsuit filed in May 1998. The Justice Department and nine states settled the case in November 2001, with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly approving the deal about a year later.

Kollar-Kotelly also dismissed one of several harsher remedies proposed by nine states that rejected the settlement. The litigating states had asked that Microsoft be compelled to carry the JVM in Windows for 10 years.

Sun's current case derives from the government's antitrust lawsuit and may not go trial for at least a year or more. Motz determined that the preliminary injunction was necessary to preserve competition in the meantime.

"I find it an absolute certainty that unless a preliminary injunction is entered, Sun will have lost forever its right to compete, and the opportunity to prevail, in a market undistorted by its competitor's antitrust violations," Motz wrote in a 42-page ruling issued in December.

While Motz issued his initial ruling in December, legal wrangling by both sides delayed his final order for about a month.