WASHINGTON -- A U.S. federal appeals court has stayed a judge's order requiring Microsoft to ship Sun's Java technology with its Windows operating system and other products.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Monday halted an order that would have gone into effect Tuesday. Microsoft was required to offer Sun's Java Runtime Environment with Windows XP and Internet Explorer. The appeals court ruling ran about two pages and offered little explanation for the stay, according to a Sun representative. Back to Court It delays pending action by the appeals court, a December 23 order by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Motz, who is presiding over a number of private antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft, including one filed by Sun. Motz set the clock ticking on the "must-carry" Java order in a ruling January 21, when he gave Microsoft 120 days to comply. Sun has argued that Microsoft tried to derail a competitive threat posed by Java by offering a version of the technology that is incompatible with Sun's specifications. Its lawyers argued before Motz that Microsoft's behavior, if allowed to continue, would unfairly drive developers to Microsoft's competing .Net platform. "We regret the Fourth Circuit Court's decision," said Lee Patch, vice president for legal affairs at Sun, in a statement. "The preliminary injunctions granted by the District Court will benefit consumers and...the Java Community's developers, enterprises and system vendors. We will work actively to ensure that the earliest possible date is set for the appellate hearing. We look forward to demonstrating the merits of District Court's decision when the appeal is heard." Microsoft Changes Plan Microsoft had said earlier Monday that it was taking steps to comply with Motz's order, by replacing the Windows XP SP1 service pack with a new one, XP SP1a. It said the upgrade would be identical to the previous service pack but exclude Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine. It said it would have included Sun's Java software in Windows XP in early June 2003 starting with Service Pack 1b. Those plans are now on hold pending further appeals court action, Jim Desler, Microsoft spokesperson, said later on Monday. "I believe that everything will be on hold until we hear from the court and the conclusion of the appeals process," Desler said. "We're pleased the court granted our motion, but the work that we did up to this point revealed that we were complying fully with the district court order."
Appeals court issues stay in Microsoft, Sun Java fight
By Patrick Thibodeau
Today's decision, which was announced by Sun Microsystems Inc., means the injunction won't go into effect until a full decision is made on the appeal.
Sun, in a statement, said it regrets the decision and will work to "ensure the earliest possible date" for a hearing.
Earlier today, Microsoft had moved to comply with a court order in the lawsuit resulting in a change to the Windows XP operating system service pack.
After announcing that move, Microsoft received word of the stay. In response, spokesman Jim Desler said, "It appears that our process to comply with the court order is on hold" until the appeals court completes its appeal. Desler said the company believed all along that it was appropriate to wait until the appeals process is completed.
Before the stay was granted, Microsoft had announced that it will replace its Service Pack 1 upgrade for Windows XP with XP SP1a. The new version would be identical to the earlier version, except that it would come without Microsoft's own Java virtual machine. Windows customers, the company said, wouldn't be required to take any action or even download the latest service pack version.
Microsoft had said that action would bring it into compliance with the initial steps outlined in an injunction in December from U.S. District Judge Frederick Motz. He ordered the software maker to carry the Sun technology with the Windows operating system within 120 days of Feb. 4, which would be early June. Microsoft had also said that in early June it would include Sun's Java technology in Windows XP, starting with service pack SP1b.
Microsoft now ships an out-of-date version of Java, forcing users to upgrade to the latest version. Java developers have complained that Microsoft's decision not to ship an up-to-date version has hurt development of Java as a desktop application, though not in the server space, where it's thriving.
Microsoft, in its appeal to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., argued that the must-carry Java order is harmful to the company. Microsoft will likely drop its plans to ship Sun's Java runtime environment in June if it successfully appeals Motz's injunction.
Windows Server 2003 isn't affected by the court order, and it will include neither Microsoft's Java virtual machine nor Sun's runtime environment, the company said.
Copyright © 2003 Computerworld Inc.