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Microsoft accuses Sun of double standard

An attorney for the software giant charges that Sun Microsystems unfairly tolerated behavior from Netscape that it would not accept from Microsoft.

    WASHINGTON--Sun Microsystems unfairly tolerated behavior from a "completely untrustworthy" Netscape Communications that it would not accept from Microsoft, an attorney from the software giant argued today.

    Trying to show that Sun harbored Microsoft's day in court a double standard in enforcing its contracts, Microsoft attorney Tom Burt suggested that Netscape is guilty of many of the same offenses which Microsoft stands accused of in the antitrust trial being heard in federal court here.

    Sun has responded to Microsoft's failure to support certain Java features by complaining to antitrust authorities and by filing suit in federal court in San Jose, California. At the same time, however, Sun continues to court Netscape as a close ally--even though it also fails to support the technology, known as Java native interface, or JNI, Burt alleged.

    The lawyer made the allegations as he resumed his cross-examination of Sun vice president and Java developer James Gosling. The Justice Department and 19 states allege that Microsoft has attempted to protect the Windows monopoly by thwarting "cross-platform" Java.

    In a September email, Sun executive Eric Schmidt complained to Jon Kannegaard, a vice president in the Java group, about Netscape's "sneaky" moves.

    "They are completely untrustworthy," Schmidt wrote. "Go sign a deal with Sadaam Hussein. It has a better chance of being honored."

    What's more, Netscape has failed to honor its promise to support JNI in some versions of its browser, according to evidence introduced by Burt today.

    "Isn't it true, Dr. Gosling, that to this day Netscape has never supported JNI on any platform except [Windows]?" Burt asked.

    Gosling acknowledged that Netscape products do not comply with the JNI requirements, but went on to say the company was "working diligently and honorably" to change that. "Netscape committed to supporting JNI--in contrast to Microsoft, which said they never would," he added.

    Burt also introduced a July 1997 email from a Sun manager in charge of Java compliance, which acknowledged that testing for Java compatibility "is tougher than it may appear on the surface because we have made a big deal about JNI support to Microsoft."

    Gosling said that Netscape's efforts to bring its Java implementations were "satisfactory" given the revenue problems created by Microsoft.

    Outside court today, Sun spokeswoman Lisa Poulson disputed Burt's suggestion that Netscape is not in compliance with its Java license. Because of Netscape's problems, it now designs its browsers without a Java technology known as virtual machines. But the browsers allow the virtual machines of third-party developers to "plug in," so long as the third parties support JNI, just as Microsoft must, she said.

    Last Month, Sun won a major victory in the ongoing dispute between it and the software giant when U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose ordered Microsoft to support JNI in its versions of Java. Microsoft has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling, but in the meantime is complying.

    Earlier today, a Justice Department attorney reinforced testimony from a computer consultant by introducing a dictionary published by Microsoft that defined a Web browser as a "client application." (See related story) The witness, a computer consultant hired by the government, today wrapped up his second day on the stand.