Sun: MS aims to "hijack" Java

Java executive Alan Baratz testifies Microsoft is trying to "flood the market" with a "divergent version of Java."

4 min read
SAN JOSE, California--The Sun Microsystems executive who runs the company's Java efforts yesterday charged that Microsoft is trying to "flood the market" with its own "divergent version of Java" in an effort to undermine the promise of letting developers create software that runs on different operating systems.

Alan Baratz, president of Sun's Java software division, also said Microsoft is trying to "hijack" the Java platform, speaking after his testimony on Sun's request for a temporary injunction to bar Microsoft from distributing Java software that doesn't meet Sun compatibility tests.

Attorneys for Sun and Microsoft will make closing arguments on the motion for an injunction today, in a session that is closed to the public and press.

In a conference call after today's hearing, Sun said the proceedings went well. Microsoft echoed the sentiment.

Baratz testified in laborious detail about negotiations with Microsoft over licensing and distributing a Java Virtual Machine and software tools, contradicting on several points Tuesday's testimony from Microsoft senior vice president Robert Muglia on those discussions.

Baratz added that Microsoft initially wanted to license Java only for its Internet Explorer Web browser software but the talks later evolved to let Microsoft use Java in many products, including its Windows operating system. The testimony was designed to convince U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte that Microsoft has inaccurately portrayed those discussions, according to a source familiar with Sun's legal strategy.

Yesterday, James Gosling, the Sun vice president and fellow who created the Java programming language, testified that he was "appalled" when he learned that Microsoft had unilaterally written extensions to Java outside the normal process for doing so.

Gosling said the move contradicted Microsoft's earlier positions on unilateral extensions--additions made to Java without the consent of Sun or other Java licensees. Specifically, Gosling recalled a meeting in early 1997 in San Jose during which Microsoft executives and others said they were worried about people making unilateral extensions to Java.

"Everybody, including Microsoft, said not only that [extensions] were a bad thing, but that they wouldn't do it," he testified. "They said they would never be cowboys and go off and do something on their own."

Gosling and Baratz testified as part of a three-day hearing to explore Sun's request for a court order forcing Microsoft to modify Java features in its software. Sun sued Microsoft last October for breach of contract, alleging that Microsoft's Java implementation failed to pass compatibility tests required by its licensing agreement.

In May, Sun broadened its suit to include claims of copyright violations and unfair competition, and asked Whyte to order Microsoft either to bring Java features in Windows 98 and Internet Explorer in line with the tests or to include Sun's version of Java with the programs.

Yesterday's testimony by Sun's witnesses followed appearances Tuesday by four witnesses Microsoft had called, including Muglia, who runs Microsoft's application and tools group. Muglia repeated Microsoft's insistence that it has "broad rights to make extensions to Java" as part of its Java contract with Sun.

The disputed contract, signed in March 1996, allowed Microsoft to license Java to create a virtual machine and tools, a key component in its efforts to implement an Internet strategy within its software products. Both parties have placed copies of the contract on their Web sites, although Microsoft's site includes as an addition exhibit a trademark agreement that Sun's site doesn't.

Muglia testified that Baratz seemed clear on the licensing deal, which concerned both cross-platform Java implementations and Microsoft Windows software extensions. Baratz likewise said yesterday that he thought the Java license was unambiguous.

"It certainly was not our intent to change [Java] in an incompatible way," Muglia said from the stand.

The legal dispute has powerful repercussions for the entire software industry. According to internal Microsoft documents, the company views Java as a threat to its dominance in operating systems because a computer user running Java could run numerous applications without using Microsoft products. Critics say Microsoft responded to the threat by sabotaging Java's "write once, run anywhere" promise.

Microsoft's dealings with Sun on Java also have drawn the attention of government prosecutors pressing antitrust charges against the software giant. Federal prosecutors last week introduced evidence that Microsoft engaged in a broad pattern of conduct designed to prevent widespread use of Java.

The government's allegations echo claims Sun has made in its private lawsuit. "Microsoft is intentionally and deliberately attempting to fragment the Java programming environment by causing programs written [for Sun's Java implementation] to fail to operate on the Microsoft product implementations," Sun attorneys claimed in a May court filing.

"Microsoft also has executed...strategies to constrict, if not strangle, the channels of distribution for compatible implementations of Java."

Microsoft flatly denies the claims, maintaining that it has fully complied with its contract with Sun and that its Java strategies are in no way illegal.

The only disagreement between the two sides over compatibility pertains to the so-called Java Native Interface (JNI), which customizes Java for a specific operating system, according to Microsoft. The company contends JNI is excluded from compatibility requirements.

Tom Burt, associate general counsel for Microsoft, said Tuesday that Microsoft has passed all compatibility tests except one related to JNI.

Last week, attorneys from the Justice Department and 20 states claimed Microsoft pressured partners such as Apple Computer and Intel not to develop Java products that might be at odds with Windows. A heavily edited version of a court brief deleted specific details of the alleged dealings.

Based on an earlier decision in the case by Judge Whyte, Microsoft may have a difficult time proving its version of Java complies with its license from Sun. In a ruling issued in March, Whyte ordered Microsoft to stop displaying Sun's Java-compatible logo on Microsoft products and said the software giant's interpretation of the license was "inconsistent with Java's objective of cross-platform compatibility."