Microsoft Corp. appears to be trying to kill two birds with one stone by announcing plans to include its Java Virtual Machine (JVM) in Windows XP, an about-face that comes just a day before the closing arguments in the remedy proceeding for its landmark antitrust case.
However, Microsoft maintains the concession is more a nod to a separate lawsuit filed by Sun Microsystems Inc. in March, and not a statement to the court overseeing the antitrust case in Washington.
Indeed, Microsoft kept to its pattern of talking tough in spite of possibly dire consequences, noting that the decision to include its JVM is but an "interim" measure to appease customers.
"Microsoft has decided to include our Java virtual machine as part of the service pack due later this summer to be distributed in the default installation in all channels of distribution," said Jim Cullinan, Microsofts lead product manager for Windows. "This decision was made to minimize any disruption among our customers."
Cullinan cites Suns lawsuit as the catalyst for the move. "We made this decision because we are removing the installation-on-demand component that was originally included in Windows XP due to Suns most recent lawsuit," he said. "We believe that including the option of allowing Windows XP customers who encounter a Java applet and dont already have a Java VM on their PC to be prompted to download our Java VM was fully compliant with our settlement with Sun and a court will uphold this right. But, due to Suns most recent lawsuit which claimed the installation on demand option for Java was in violation of the settlement agreement from between Sun and Microsoft, we wanted to take this issue off the table in the new lawsuit while minimizing any potential impact on our customers."
In the interim, Cullinan said, "we will include our Java virtual machine into Windows in order to minimize any potential disruption among our customers. This decision does not impact the ability of Sun or any third party to negotiate with OEMs or customers to include their Java solution with Windows XP just as they always have been able to do."
Meanwhile, Microsofts lawyers prepare to put on their best arguments to stave off an attempt by attorneys for the nine non-settling states in the ongoing antitrust case to place harsh remedies against the software giant – including auctioning Microsoft technology, creating a modular version of Windows and offering up Microsoft intellectual property to the open source community.
And key to the states case is the issue of Java and Microsofts attempts to fragment the Java standard and dilute the impact of the language and development framework as a middleware threat to Windows.
Still, Microsoft maintains that it believes its arguments are legally sound in both cases and that it stands pat on its decision to ultimately remove Java from Windows.
"The decision to include our Java virtual machine in SP1 does not change plans to remove Java support from Windows," Cullinan said. "The settlement agreement between the companies prevents Microsoft from making any changes -- including any security fixes -- to our Java implementation after January 1, 2004. We will not put our customers or Windows at risk so you can anticipate that there will be no Java in Windows from that point forward."
Meanwhile, Tom Miller the attorney general for Iowa, who has been leading the group of non-settling state attorneys general said: "The Courts already have determined that Microsoft broke the antitrust law by taking illegal action to maintain and extend its monopoly. Now the issue is what the Court will order to unfetter competition, deny Microsoft the fruits of the violations, and prevent further violations."
The states "are very eager to bring this case to culmination" Miller said.
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