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McNealy: This lawsuit's for you

Sun Microsystems' CEO says Java developers are the benefactors of a judge's ruling that Microsoft must remove the Java logo from its products.

SAN FRANCISCO--"This lawsuit's for you," Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy told Java developers here.

That was the chief executive's message at the JavaOne conference today as he commented about a judge's ruling that archrival Microsoft must remove the Java logo from its browser and development tools.

Sun sued Microsoft last fall, alleging that Microsoft had broken its Java license by altering parts of the core Java technology in the Internet Explorer browser and its development tools. Sun asked a judge to force Microsoft to remove the "Java-compatible" steaming-cup logo from the products; the judge granted that request yesterday.

Perhaps to deflect worry that Sun is becoming distracted by legal matters, McNealy used his keynote speech to tell roughly 12,000 conference attendees, most of them Java developers, that they were the benefactors of the decision.

"If we don't protect the logo, we can't guarantee you 100 percent compatibility," he said. "I know it's no fun to deal with [a company involved in legal battles], but if we have to go to the courts to protect our coffee cup, we'll do that."

In opening comments, Sun's science office director John Gage urged developers not to get too distracted by the lawsuit. "Treat it like a spectator sport...but remember that we have work to do," he said.

Regarding Hewlett-Packard, the other computing titan that has broken ranks with Sun, McNealy, as other Sun executives have done in the past two days, left open the possibility that HP has infringed upon Sun's intellectual property by creating its own version of the embedded Java Virtual Machine. At issue is whether HP has created a full replica of the standard Java technology--which is allowable under Sun's copyright--or a "subset" that is tailored to run on printers, pagers, and other consumer devices.

"Whether it's illegal or not, we don't want people to subset," McNealy said. He added yesterday that he spoke to HP chief executive Lew Platt Friday, showed him the copyright language, and explained what was allowable. HP executives claim they have followed the full specification and have not done anything wrong.

McNealy stressed that Sun is not looking to mobilize its lawyers and will continue talking to HP, which he called a "honorable, high-character" company. He also reiterated that the HP "clone" is a validation of the market opportunities for Java software.

"Nobody's cloning Wang OS," McNealy quipped.

Although Sun wants Java to run on "billions of gizmos" as one company slogan has it, McNealy said in a press conference after the speech that Sun would not manufacture the gizmos themselves.

One possible exception is a device about the size of an ostrich egg that attaches to a phone line and acts as an all-in-one in-box for voice mail, email, and faxes. Dubbed Persona, the system currently is for demonstration only, but the company previewed it during McNealy's keynote as a trial balloon. Sun chief corporate officer Ed Zander then hinted after the speech that Persona could go commercial if customers expressed enough interest.

McNealy also warned developers and executives to stay away from Microsoft's development tools and architecture. His vision of business computing is a world in which people carry only an ID card to first log on to a network from any computing device running Java and get information--from applications to email to Web pages--over a secure connection.

Such a vision, which McNealy dubbed "nomadic computing," would require hardware makers to add smart-card readers to everything from PCs and Web phones to public information kiosks. It also requires corporations to buy lots of large servers and databases, the lifeblood of Sun and its Java allies such as IBM, Netscape Communications, and Oracle.