Microsoft's war on Java detailed

The software giant's war against Sun Microsystems began in May 1996, with the announcement of JavaBeans, according to a Microsoft executive.

Jeff Pelline
Jeff Pelline Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jeff Pelline is editor of CNET News.com. Jeff promises to buy a Toyota Prius once hybrid cars are allowed in the carpool lane with solo drivers.
2 min read
Microsoft's Java jihad against Sun Microsystems began in May 1996 with the announcement of JavaBeans, a Microsoft executive said in a court declaration.

"Without any warning or prior discussion, Mr. Baratz [Alan Baratz, president of Sun's software group] announced a new object model for Java--JavaBeans," Bob Muglia, Microsoft's vice president of server applications, said in a newly released deposition dated August 6. "This announcement hit me, my management, and our engineering teams like a ton of bricks.

JavaBeans, which are components that Java developers can use to build applications, are used widely throughout the high-tech industry.

"The JavaBeans announcement changed our relationship with Sun," Muglia added. "Microsoft people learned of their true intent and could no longer think of Sun as a partner. The unfortunate war of words began."

"We're not commenting," said Lisa Poulson. "All of these are issues to be discussed in court."

The two industry giants are locked in a protracted legal battle over the licensing of Java. Sun charges Microsoft with violating the terms of a 1996 contract. A hearing on Sun's motion for a preliminary injunction against Microsoft's use of Java is planned for September 10.

The agreement was signed 4:45 a.m., at the conclusion of a marathon negotiation session that lasted more than 18 hours, according to Muglia. He called it a win-win pact, at least at first, arguing that "Sun obtained widespread distribution of Java and $17.5 million from Microsoft."

The honeymoon lasted "for the first few weeks" after the contract was signed, according to the deposition.

"Microsoft's engineers shared information about Microsoft's Java implementation freely with Sun," Muglia said in the deposition. "Mr. Baratz and I continued to talk about how we could effectively work together."

After the JavaBeans announcement, Muglia said, the two companies tried to continue working together, but relations were strained. He said they tried to work together on a common, basic native code interface but claimed that "Sun was unwilling to address our technical concerns, and the discussions did not produce an agreement."

Muglia called Sun's October 1997 lawsuit "a great surprise." He said he and Baratz continued corresponding through August 5, focusing on a tool offered in Sun's Java Development Kit called a "RMI Compiler."

According to Muglia, "This technology, as delivered by Sun, does not run on Microsoft's existing VM [virtual machine]."

He added that Baratz disputed Sun's obligation to make the technology work on Microsoft's existing VM. "Microsoft remains ready to distribute the RMI compiler on its Web site when it is delivered to us in working order," he said.