An Open Letter Regarding Windows XP and Java Support

Last updated August 17, 2001

Sun Microsystems has invested a great deal of their marketing dollars and lobbying efforts in attacking our yet-to-be released Windows XP operating system, claiming that Microsoft has hurt Sun, the Java language and PC industry customers at large by not including the Microsoft virtual machine in Windows XP.

We feel it is important to outline for our customers the facts on this matter.

Sun Microsystems has taken every step possible to prevent Microsoft from shipping our award winning Java virtual machine. In fact, Sun resorted to litigation to stop Microsoft from shipping a high performance Java virtual machine that took optimal advantage of Windows. The settlement agreement provides for a termination of Microsoft's existing license with Sun and phase-out of the Microsoft VM, so Sun's professed surprise is mere spin. It should be noted that, since the settlement, a Federal Appeals Court has upheld Microsoft's development of a high-performance, well-integrated virtual machine for Windows as pro-competitive.

When Microsoft and Sun settled their litigation earlier this year, Sun was quick to pronounce the settlement a great victory. Sun's CEO said, "It's pretty simple: This is a victory for our licensees and consumers. The community wants one Java technology: one brand, one process and one great platform. We've accomplished that, and this agreement further protects the authenticity and value of Sun's Java technology."1 Sun got what they said they wanted: the termination of the existing Java license with Microsoft, and an agreement that Microsoft would phase out its Java virtual machine.

Sun now professes surprise and unhappiness, and is complaining publicly. But as industry analysts such as Bob Sutherland of Technology Business Research point out: "Sun can't have it both ways. They don't want Microsoft to have monopolistic control, but at the same time they want them to control their Java. No matter what Microsoft does, Sun is going to try to demonize them."2

Perhaps most disturbing, Sun is being disingenuous about the impact on customers. Microsoft has taken several steps to make its Java implementation available to Windows XP customers while adhering to the settlement agreement and protecting Windows customers from any future litigation by Sun. While the Microsoft virtual machine is not on the Windows XP CD, it is still an integrated part of the product. Customers who upgrade to Windows XP from recent prior versions of Windows can easily and automatically take advantage of their existing Java virtual machine. Customers with new machines or who perform a clean installation of Windows XP will automatically be offered the choice to perform a one-time download of the virtual machine the first time they browse a Web page containing a Java applet. This download is then available for any subsequent applet a customer may encounter. Finally, Microsoft has made its virtual machine available to any PC manufacturer to ship with new Windows XP systems, to save customers even this one-time download.

At Microsoft we are proud of the Java virtual machine we created, and the value our customers see in it. It has a long history of high quality and superior performance. It is also the only Java virtual machine that offers an integrated applet browsing experience with Internet Explorer. And it offered customers a choice - just as Windows XP will enable customers to choose and run other third-party virtual machines.

Sun works hard to create an image of itself as a leader in openness and choice with Java. The notion that Java is "open" is simply incorrect - Sun's actions ensure this, as again clearly demonstrated when it submitted Java to an industry standards body and then reneged on the submission, not just once but twice. Contrast these actions with Microsoft, where we have submitted the underlying specifications for Microsoft .NET to ECMA and are following through on our commitment.

Sun's idea of choice is that you can have any language you want, as long as it is Sun's version of Java under Sun's control. By contrast, Microsoft .NET supports over 20 languages from Microsoft and third parties, and Java will also be supported as a full-fledged language for the .NET platform. We believe that is a better definition of choice.

2001 Microsoft Corporation.