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Microsoft on Java: "Sun agreed"

A key Microsoft executive reiterates that the software giant complied with its Java contract with Sun Microsystems.

A key Microsoft executive reiterated that the software giant has complied with its Sun Microsystems contract for using the Java programming language.

The declaration, released yesterday, is a legal document based on sworn testimony. It is considered admissible evidence in an upcoming trial aimed at settling the ongoing dispute between the two companies regarding implementation of the Java programming language.

Microsoft filed several other documents last week in response to Sun's motion for a preliminary injunction, filed in May, which seeks to limit the ways Microsoft can distribute Sun's platform-independent programming language.

Sun is seeking an order that would require Microsoft to alter its version of Java or to bundle a copy of Sun's native Java with Windows 98 and the Internet Explorer browser.

The company contends that Microsoft's expanded version of Java, which contains Windows-specific capabilities, undermines Java's "write once, run anywhere" promise.

"Microsoft agreed that its implementation of Java would be compatible with Java applets written to run on other platforms," wrote Bob Muglia, senior vice president for Microsoft's applications and tools group. "In turn, Sun agreed that Microsoft could extend Java to allow programs written in the Java language to take advantage of the platform-specific features of Windows."

Muglia's testimony is significant because he was part of the team that negotiated the Java contract with Sun.

"The [letter of intent] established a framework upon which Sun and Microsoft were able to agree," he added. "There is tension in that framework because Sun's objective was to establish a new, platform-independent environment, while Microsoft's objective was to demonstrate the value of Windows."

Sounding a familiar "good-for-consumers" theme, Muglia wrote that the agreement is good for the industry because it encourages innovation.

"Most importantly, developers could choose between cross-platform and platform-specific approaches to Java, based on the success of the innovation and what was important to them," Muglia testified. "Either or both companies could be successful. In any case, end users and developers would win."

Microsoft says Muglia's testimony is critical because Sun agreed to allow Redmond to have control over implementation of Java for Windows but is now changing the rules.

"If Microsoft was going to put significant resources into optimizing Java for Windows, we needed to have control over how the optimization was done," Muglia stated.

A Sun spokeswoman wouldn't address the executive's testimony. "We're not going to respond point-counterpoint," said Sun spokeswoman Lisa Poulson. "We'll leave a discussion of these issues to the courtroom."

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for September 4 in San Jose, California, federal court.

Microsoft intends to make redacted, or censored, versions of the other documents filed Friday available later this week, according to Microsoft spokeswoman Joscelyn Zell.

Meanwhile, a federal judge today set in motion the first step toward unsealing many of the documents in the case. U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte ordered both Microsoft and Sun to submit their nominees for a "special master" to aid the case by August 19.

The special master, likely to be a retired judge, will decide which documents related to the case can be released to the media and the public without compromising trade secrets. The documents are not expected to be released anytime soon.