Java Appeal May Take Months

Court will review order requiring Microsoft to bundle Sun's Java, leaving the technology's fate in limbo

Grant Gross
IDG News Service

February 04, 2003

A U.S. federal appeals court has delayed a judge's order for Microsoft to ship Sun Microsystems' Java technology with its Windows operating system and other products, and the court's review of the case may take more than two months.

On Monday, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit halted an order that would have gone into effect Tuesday requiring Microsoft to offer Sun's Java Runtime Environment with Windows XP and some versions of Internet Explorer. Microsoft has asked the appeals court, based in Richmond, Virginia, for an expedited hearing on the Java order, with oral arguments in late March and early April.

The appeals court ruling delays 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, based in Baltimore, Maryland, set the clock ticking on the "must-carry" Java order in a ruling January 21, when he gave Microsoft 120 days to comply.

Unfair Advantage?

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.

Any delays would give a further advantage to .Net at the expense of Java, Sun's lawyers have argued.

"We regret the Fourth Circuit Court's decision," Lee Patch, vice president for legal affairs at Sun, said 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."

Ready to Comply

Microsoft had said earlier Monday that it was taking steps to comply with Motz's order, by replacing the service pack Windows XP SP1 with a new service pack, XP SP1a. The upgrade is identical to the previous service pack but excludes Microsoft's Java virtual machine, and Microsoft spokesperson Jim Desler said the company would continue with its plans to distribute the new service pack without Microsoft's version of Java. Motz's order prohibited Microsoft from distributing its own version of Java; Sun's lawyers had argued Microsoft's version continues to cause confusion among developers.

Microsoft had planned to include Sun's Java software in Windows XP in early June 2003 starting with Service Pack 1b, but Desler said further plans to comply with Motz's order--and to integrate Java in any form in Windows--are now on hold pending further appeals court action.

"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," Desler said. "We will continue the process to get out of the Java business in a way that allows us to support and minimize any impact on our customers. We will no longer include the MS [version of Java] in any Microsoft product moving forward."

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