Path clear for ruling in Java case

More documents are released in the case contesting Microsoft's use of Java, clearing the way for a judge to rule on the matter.

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.
Jeff Pelline
3 min read
More documents were released yesterday in the federal case contesting Microsoft's use of its license to Sun Microsystems' Java programming language, clearing the way for a judge to rule in the matter.

As earlier reported, Sun and Microsoft both confirmed that the documents--"a tremendous amount of material," as Microsoft put it--were released, as ordered Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte. Judge Whyte had said he wants the edited, or redacted, documents released before he rules on the case.

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Microsoft's holy war on Java Microsoft argued Wednesday that the newly released documents reinforces its position that Sun tried to "circumvent the agreed-upon meaning of the license with Microsoft." As evidence, it again pointed to remarks allegedly made by Sun employees, such as one that read, "I believe we're in violation of the MS contract," and another that read, "Microsoft was smarter than us when we did the contract."

In a statement yesterday, Microsoft said: "Sun's response to this evidence was to suggest the authors did not know what they were talking about or were not decision makers. A review of the underlying documents shows these were not snippets of email...but were part of a detailed analysis of the contract undertaken by several different Sun employees at the request of senior management."

Sun denied this, reiterating its previous statements about the matter. "Neither [employee] had anything to do with the contract negotiations and have no legal traning," a spokeswoman said. "Their opinions regarding the contract are not relevant and are not correct."

The newly released documents include a Microsoft memo regarding a meeting held in February 1997 at a San Jose hotel among executives from Microsoft, Borland (now Inprise), Metrowerks, Sybase, Symantec, and an executive from Java inventor Sun.

In the weeks before the meeting, an internal debate raged at the Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, whose operating systems power more than 90 percent of the world's new personal computers.

"This meeting has the potential to totally backfire" on Microsoft, executive Paul Gross wrote in one group email. "This transparency could end up being picked up by the press and would hurt us."

In a follow-up, he wrote to senior executives, "I believe that our true goal, controlling the future of Java, will be totally transparent and mostly unacceptable to all Java OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)."

Gross and others who worried about the ruse blowing up were apparently overruled by Microsoft's upper management.

By this afternoon, both companies were to have released the edited materials supporting each side's stance on Sun's motions for a preliminary injunction. In May, Sun asked a U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, to require Microsoft to include "compatible Java" in Windows 98, on grounds of copyright violation and also unfair competition.

Sun contends Microsoft's version of Java does not meet contractually defined standards, in an intentional effort to wrest control of Java from Sun. Microsoft denies the allegation.

The documents that were released yesterday were attachments and exhibits to Sun's motions for an injunction, Microsoft's replies to the motions, and Sun's follow-up replies.

In evidence released last month, documents revealed that Microsoft tried to "kill cross-platform Java" by growing the "polluted Java market," while a Sun manager acknowledged that "Microsoft was smarter than us when we did the contract."

Sun sued Microsoft in October 1997 for breach of contract, alleging that Microsoft's Java implementation failed to pass compatibility tests required in its licensing agreement.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.