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Sun to Microsoft: Change Win 98

Sun Microsystems steps up its battle with Microsoft over Java, making allegations of exclusionary conduct and taking aim at Windows 98.

Sun Microsystems today stepped up its battle with Microsoft over the Java programming language, making allegations of exclusionary conduct and taking aim at Windows 98, which is already in the crosshair of federal and state antitrust officials.

At a teleconference with journalists, Sun said it was seeking a preliminary injunction requiring Microsoft to alter Windows 98 so that it is compatible with Sun's implementation of Java.

"We are not seeking an injunction to stop the shipment of Windows 98," said Alan Baratz, president of Sun's

Alan Baratz
JavaSoft president Alan Baratz
Java software division. "We are simply seeking to assure that...Windows 98...includes a fully compatible version of the Java platform."

At a separate press conference, Microsoft general manager for developer relations Tod Nielsen said Sun's motion was "nothing more than a publicity stunt that is not in the interest" of consumers, software developers, or vendors.

"Sun wants to restrict choice, and we think that's a very unfortunate thing," added Brad Chase, Microsoft's vice president for developer relations and marketing.

While federal and state regulators weigh new antitrust actions against Microsoft this week, the software giant and Sun have been locked in a fierce battle over Microsoft's implementation of Java.

Last October, the workstation maker slapped Microsoft with a lawsuit for breach of contract and trademark

Brad Chase
Microsoft developer relations and marketing VP Brad Chase
infringement. The suit alleged that Microsoft was infringing the Java-compatible trademark by using the logo to promote products that didn't pass compatibility tests mandated by Sun's licensing contract. Sun's suit also claimed that the alterations were designed to harm the viability of Java by thwarting the programming language's "write once, run anywhere" promise. Microsoft, in turn, countersued and alleged breach of contract and unfair business practices.

In March, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte, who is hearing the case, preliminarily sided with Sun by ordering Microsoft to stop using Sun's logo. Sun's latest motion, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, asks the same judge to order Microsoft to change its Java implementation in Windows 98 pending a final outcome in the case.

At today's press conference, Sun also made new allegations against Microsoft, accusing it of using "exclusionary" licensing terms for its Win32 logo, which software developers display to assure customers that its products are compatible with Microsoft platforms.

"We have learned that Microsoft recently has signed agreements with some of their customers which require those customers to use nobody else's Java machine other than Microsoft's," Baratz said. He pointed to guidelines on Microsoft's Web site that state that in order to qualify for a Win32 logo, "a Java application, when running on a Windows PC, must use and redistribute the Microsoft Win32 virtual machine."

Microsoft denied that the requirement was in any way exclusionary, saying at its press conference that "if a developer wants to test against other [companies'] virtual machines, they're more than free to do that." A Java virtual machine contains code that translates Java instructions so that they can be understood on a given platform.

Sun also said that Microsoft has made new changes to the codes at the heart of Java that will ship with Windows 98. Microsoft maintains that the Java implementation in Windows 98 meets all the requirements set out in the licensing agreement.

In its motion, the workstation maker asks that three things be required of Microsoft: it must ship Windows 98 with a fully See related story: 
Win 98 due this week compatible version of Java, ship its version of Java along with Sun's version, or remove any incompatibilities from Windows 98. Sun filed the motion under seal, meaning it was not available to parties outside the case.

Redmond executives said it was no coincidence that Sun filed the motion the same week the Justice Department and a dozen state attorneys general are considering filing a lawsuit that would seek changes in the way Microsoft is marketing Windows 98.

"They're trying to add to the feeding frenzy over Windows 98," Nielsen said.

Sun's Poulson dismissed that charge, saying the company's motion merely sought a "level playing field" with respect to Java. "There could be a delay [of Windows 98], but our goal here is to get a compatible implementation of Java in Windows 98, not to block Windows 98," she added.

Microsoft remains confident that Windows 98 See special coverage: 
Sun wins Java round will ship to computer makers this Friday as scheduled, according to Nielsen. Windows 98 is expected to hit retail stores on June 25.

Sun said a hearing on its motion is scheduled for the end of July. Both companies said that Windows 98 will not be delayed while the motion is pending.