Other Companies Question Timing

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-12-05 Print this article Print

To some, the timing of Microsofts decision to phase out these products is a bit confusing. After all, earlier this fall, Sun and Microsoft agreed to extend the time period under which Microsoft is allowed to use Suns Java source and compatibility test suites. The two agreed to allow Microsoft to support the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine (MSJVM) until Sept. 30, 2004 "to permit a smooth transition from the MSJVM." Microsoft execs said today that the company is simply clearing the channel now, in anticipation of the Sept. 30, 2004, cut-off date.
Microsoft Developer Divisions Tony Goodhew said Microsoft has been communicating its Java phase-out strategy for about 18 months.
"As part of our settlement and license extension with Sun we can only modify the Microsoft virtual machine (VM) until Sep 30, 2004. After that date, we will not be able to modify the VM for any reason, including security," Goodhew said. "We will not ship products that include a piece of software we can not provide security fixes for, thus we are phasing out some older products and re-releasing some older products without the VM. This applies to all channels." Some industry watchers agreed that the move was not unexpected. "Most shops stopped using Java on the client (through browsers, at least) long ago, not only because of issues like the above, but because of the general pain of having to debug across multiple browser and JVM versions. So theres no impact there," said Michael Gilpin, research director with market researcher Forrester Research. "The people who are already using the applications like SQL Server 7 wont have to stop using them just because you cant download it from MSDN any more. What folks generally want to download from MSDN is newer versions, anyway, except in situations where a corporate standard has been defined on an older version, and a new employee needs to get it. So its theoretically possible that some people in that situation might be inconvenienced by this, but that will neither hurt nor help Microsoft nor Sun at this point. Its just getting into compliance with the settlement agreement," Gilpin added. But some, including Sun officials, wondered whether Microsofts announcement of a phase-out was a not-so-subtle attempt to force customers to upgrade to newer versions of Microsofts operating system, Office suite, database and other products. Sun recently released its Java Desktop System as a replacement for Microsoft Office. eWEEK Labs took a look at the product and liked what it saw. "It seems to me that they [Microsoft] would be keen to use any excuse to get customers to upgrade, spend more money and get more locked in to things like Office 2003s DRM [digital rights management]," said Simon Phipps, Suns chief technology evangelist. "Fortunately all those customers now have another option. With the release of Sun Java Desktop System they dont have to buy new hardware so they can pay the Redmond Tax—they can use the existing hardware for Java Desktop. If it runs any of those operating systems it will run Java Desktop perfectly." Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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