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Sun slams Microsoft over Java

Sun Microsystems' new chief operating officer accused Microsoft of being high-handed with developers and users in its handling of Java.

LOS ANGELES--Calling new Java tools from Microsoft a way "to proprietize yet another phenomenal opportunity for the Windows platform," Sun Microsystems' new chief operating officer today accused the software giant of being high-handed with developers and corporate users.

"Once again Microsoft is bullying the users and bullying the developers," said Edward Zander, recently promoted to the No. 2 spot at Sun (SUNW). He spoke after his keynote at Internet World here. "Microsoft tells them what to do as opposed to them telling Microsoft what to do."

Zander also confirmed that in two weeks, at its JavaOne developers conference, Sun will release a CD-ROM that lets network managers download a Java virtual machine onto Windows computers, giving them a Sun-sanctioned version of Java for their browsers.

Called Activator, the plug-in technology has been in beta testing since December and is designed to update Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator browsers that are not fully compliant with the last version of Java.

"We're not surprised that they have yet another architecture or APIs [application programming interfaces], and it's really too bad," Zander said, lumping the latest effort with an earlier Microsoft initiative to promote ActiveX as an alternative to Java.

Sun sought to portray Microsoft's new tools initiative, which uses Java for programming Windows applications without taking advantage of its cross-platform capabilities, as an issue for others.

George Paolini, JavaSoft director of marketing, said today's Microsoft announcement seems to carry no ramifications for the lawsuit Sun has filed against Microsoft over Java. "Anyone can add on to the Java platform, as long as they can pass the virtual machine [compatibility test]," he said.

However, Paolini said today's Microsoft announcement was "counter to the spirit of Java" and "an affront to the Java community."

Zander agreed emphatically. "It's not about Sun versus Microsoft; it's about the user community," he said. "Let's get on with the contract. We would welcome them back to the fold if they would adhere to the contract. It would be a better world for developers."

At another speech at the conference later in the day, a top Microsoft executive defended the new Java tools.

"In our studies of developers, we found that over 90 percent of Java developers are focusing on the Windows platform," Microsoft senior vice president Robert Muglia said. "Over 50 percent of developers have already found ways to access the operating system underneath, not just Windows but Macintosh too."

He added: "Our efforts are intended and focused on making it easier for developers to build the applications they want."